Chief Executive’s blog: March 2019

Chief Executive’s blog: March 2019

“PCNs: GPs will need to partner with other healthcare professionals to deliver them”

By PSNC Chief Executive Simon Dukes

Earlier this month, PSNC hosted its annual National Meeting of LPCs, bringing together LPCs from across England for an update on work at a national level and the chance to network and make progress on local issues. On one of the big standing agenda items, negotiations on pharmacy funding, there was little detail to give as they have not yet begun. We expect them to begin very shortly and pharmacy must not take the delay personally – the Government is currently fully engaged with the most complex economic and political issue it has had to deal with in decades; it is inevitable that other work is feeling the effects of that.

But although the official conversations have not yet begun, we are working closely with all those that will be involved in them and at the meeting LPCs heard from both NHS England and the Minister, Steve Brine MP*, who addressed them via a video presentation. Both the Minister and NHS England stressed their desire to make the most of community pharmacies and I do believe they are genuine. They want us to help with prevention and to support our local primary care colleagues, and a first step in that will be taking on the management of minor conditions to free up capacity in urgent care. If we show that we can do that effectively, then other roles, such as management of people with long-term conditions, may follow.

My message to the NHS and Minister has been that community pharmacy is ready for that, but that there is nothing more that can be squeezed out of this sector. We must have a multi-year settlement to enable businesses to plan and to change in the ways that they want. They seem to agree, and I look forward to starting our negotiations with them.

When I started at PSNC I wanted to improve our transparency and the way we communicate with you. However, those of you who have been watching the progress of the UK’s exit from the European Union will have seen that negotiating in the public eye is quite tricky. I too will be reticent about sharing too much detail about our conversations as they unfold. I know this is frustrating, but please be reassured that both I and my team understand just how critical these negotiations are for your businesses and livelihoods. We must get them right. We will have the support of an expert Negotiating Team who will be bringing the concerns of contractors – because they are contractors – to the table, and that we will tell you as much as we can, as soon as we can.

A note on Primary Care Networks

One of the trickier topics of the day at the National Meeting of LPCs was Primary Care Networks (PCNs). It is no overstatement to say that PCNs, which are in various early states of formation at the moment, will be the building blocks of the primary care service of the future. With GPs at their heart, the networks are being tasked, with the help of an injection of GP contract funding, with delivering a range of new services and health improvements.

The message from NHS England has been clear: while GPs are being tasked with forming these networks, GPs won’t be able to do all of the work alone and they will need to partner with other healthcare professionals and providers such as community pharmacies to deliver the progress set out in the NHS Long Term Plan. But the leaders of the PCNs won’t necessarily come knocking at our doors, and it is up to us to engage with them. With the networks covering neighbourhoods of around 30-50,000 patients, these really will be community level organisations, and it will be for individual pharmacies to engage with PCNs directly. We and the LPCs will support and guide (and help when things go wrong), but pharmacy businesses must be forward footed, and that will involve working together not just with GPs, but with other pharmacies – however challenging that might seem. You can expect more guidance from us on PCNs as and when we get better clarity from NHS England.

*The Pharmacy Minister has since resigned, but this was correct at the time of writing.

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