Do I have the skills to work for a primary care network?

With opportunities to work in primary care networks emerging in England, pharmacists can make the most of their knowledge and experience to succed in such a role.

Pharmacist with patient

The problem:

You are a community pharmacist who has seen jobs advertised for pharmacist roles within primary care networks (PCNs). Although your knowledge of PCNs is limited, you feel it would be an interesting role, but are unsure whether you have the necessary skills or experience to apply.

Source: Courtesy of Reg Rehal

“No community pharmacist should shy away from entering this role owing to ‘lack of experience’”

The pharmacist’s role in a primary care network (PCN) is new, exciting, and comes packed full of training and development opportunities. No community pharmacist should shy away from applying for these roles owing to a ‘lack of experience’, as the position will develop your skills and bring you in-line with other pharmacists who already work in general practice.

In Tilbury and Chadwell PCN, where I am a clinical director, the pharmacists I have employed are developing very well and receive continuous support and feedback from myself and other clinicians to address their training needs, which I believe is replicated among networks nationally. These pharmacists came from very different backgrounds — one is from a rheumatology hospital-based pharmacy background and the other is a community pharmacist — neither had worked much in general practice before. Both pharmacists have settled comfortably into their roles and have a good understanding of what is expected of them.

The role of the PCN pharmacist will be developing even more in the coming months, whereby a national standardised training pathway will be brought into effect. This will potentially include training to become a prescriber as well. The role itself is important going forward, as medicines optimisation and pharmaceutics in primary care are complex areas. This is where pharmacists are in their element and can bring their expertise to practice, taking a lot of workload off the GPs.

The old view of the ‘chemist in the shop’ is slowly fading away and this is the direction the profession should be heading in. I would strongly recommend any community pharmacist to take the plunge and join us in general practice and further the pharmacy profession in this sector.

Reg Rehal is a pharmacist and clinical director of Tilbury and Chadwell Primary Care Network

Source: Courtesy of Carlene Acolatse

“Demonstrate an eagerness to expand your knowledge”

Primary care may seem like a world away but, in reality, it’s both an achievable and highly rewarding career move. Many of the skills that you gain and use in community pharmacy can be transferred to pharmacist roles within PCNs.

As a community pharmacist, you are accustomed to dealing with patients on a daily basis. A big chunk of your experience will likely be from the delivery of pharmacy services and patient interactions. When applying for PCN roles, try to highlight instances where your consultations have really empowered your patients about their health, helped them manage their condition and get the best out of their medication. Demonstrate how you were able to use your knowledge to analyse problems and find solutions in these experiences. Furthermore, express how you drive patient safety in the pharmacy. Look at the different safety and clinical audits you conduct in pharmacy, and how they have benefited your patients and community.

If you’re concerned you lack experience in this area, see if you can get trained in extra services in your pharmacy or lead patient safety in your store. See if you can take on more leadership responsibility or help with staff training.

It’s also worth demonstrating an eagerness to expand your knowledge by showing what you do to maintain your professional development. Whether you are enrolled or planning to enrol on any relevant courses/workshops, you need to show that you are making moves to close any gaps in your knowledge and continuing to develop.

If you fail to land a role on your first attempt, don’t feel disheartened. Pharmacist roles in primary care networks are expanding rapidly and new opportunities are arising every day. I find that each day offers satisfying challenges and wonderful rewards and, since I made the move, I haven’t looked back.

Carlene Acolatse is a primary care network pharmacist at Leaside Primary Care Network in Newham, east London, with a background in community pharmacy

Source: Courtesy of Kere Odumah

“There will be learning needs but you will be supported”

The role of the pharmacist in primary care is constantly evolving. Pharmacists have a wealth of knowledge about medicines, we are the experts in this area. I worked in community pharmacy for five years then moved into publishing before my current role as a senior pharmacist working for a GP federation within a PCN.

The role of a pharmacist within a PCN should be viewed as an extension of your current role in community pharmacy. The basic skills required to excel in your role within a PCN are no different to the skills required of a community pharmacist.

One of the limitations I found working as a community pharmacist was access to patient records. There is only so much you can do in terms of medication reviews, drug–drug interactions or disease–drug interactions without having access to patient records — consider how many times you have tried to work out if a dose of a drug was appropriate? Is the treatment in-line with current guidelines? These are questions that I found frustrating and I am sure you do too. If these are things you have thought about then you already know that you have the skills required to assist you in your role within a PCN.

I acknowledge that there will be learning needs that you will encounter, but you will be supported through this transition. The important thing to note is that you have been trained to be an expert in medicines and that expertise is what you will bring to your role. Are you skilled? Yes. Is there more you need to develop? Definitely. Is there room to develop and learn? Of course. There is always room to grow and expand on your knowledge. NHS England recognises this and, as such, there is funding available for pharmacists taking on a PCN role to undertake an 18-month Centre for Pharmacy Postgraduate Education training programme, which will equip you with all you need to be successful in your role.

Kere Odumah is a senior pharmacist at Islington GP Federation overseeing the pharmacy service for the Islington Central 2 Primary Care Network

Source: Courtesy of Sabes Thurairasa

“It is beneficial to have a good understanding of the function of PCNs”

There are several opportunities for pharmacists in PCNs. You can find out more about PCNs, and the roles pharmacist have within them, from existing Royal Pharmacutical Society (RPS) resources and those of other organisations. Here are some resources that can help you understand the function of PCNs:

In terms of training, pharmacists working in PCNs will have access to an 18-month programme to support them.

A large part of the PCN role will involve patient consultations in various settings and as a pharmacist already working in a patient-facing role, you can build on the experience you have. We have resources that will be useful to support pharmacists in activities they will be involved in when working in PCNs.

Prescribing will form part of the role and the RPS has developed a practical guide for independent prescribers. The guide is useful for pharmacists aspiring to become a prescriber. PCN pharmacists will carry out structured medication reviews, lead on medicines optimisation, address local public health and social care needs and support care homes. The RPS has a medicines optimisation hub, which includes our good practice guidance on medicines optimisation helping patients make the most of their medicines. The Society also has polypharmacy guidance for healthcare professionals and healthcare organisations involved with medicines and patient care. When changing sector, the support of a mentor can be invaluable, you can register as a mentee on the RPS website.

Sabes Thurairasa is a senior professional support pharmacist at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, April 2020, Vol 304, No 7936;304(7936)::DOI:10.1211/PJ.2020.20207796

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