NHS England funds roles to grow engagement between community pharmacy and general practice

Community pharmacy primary care network engagement lead roles have been established to support the implementation of the pharmacy elements of the primary care access recovery plan, NHS England said.
community pharmacy sign

Primary care networks (PCNs) will receive a one-off payment of £1,040 each to fund an ‘engagement lead’ from community pharmacies during 2024/2025, NHS England has announced.

In guidance published on 28 May 2024, NHS England said the roles have been established to support implementation of the pharmacy elements of the ‘Delivery plan for recovering access to primary care’ at a regional level.

These include implementing the Pharmacy First service and expanding the NHS Community Pharmacy Blood Pressure Check service and Pharmacy Contraception service.

Community pharmacy PCN engagement leads “will function as a point of contact for local community pharmacies and for general practices in the PCN” to help develop “channels of engagement” and “build partnership that supports integrated clinical pathways for patients”, the guidance said.

The engagement leads will be managed on a local level across all 42 integrated care boards (ICBs) for the current financial year until 31 March 2025.

In a statement, NHS England said: “It is expected that the ICB pharmacy commissioning teams and community pharmacy clinical leads will coordinate with their local pharmaceutical committees to identify the community PCN engagement lead roles. This could be one per PCN or one role for a number of PCNs … determined locally, based on the needs of the locality.”

Graham Stretch, president of the Primary Care Pharmacy Association, told The Pharmaceutical Journal on 31 May 2024 that the funding is “welcome news”.

He added: “Work to facilitate improved referral for Pharmacy First and to develop joint supervision arrangements for prescribing training for both legacy and 2025 foundation [pharmacists] would be two obvious ‘burning platform’ projects for ICBs to coordinate.”

On 31 May 2024, an analysis of NHS data by The Pharmaceutical Journal revealed a wide variation in the number of claims made by pharmacies for Pharmacy First, which pharmacy bodies attributed to a lack of referrals from GPs in parts of the country.

NHS England said suggested responsibilities for the post-holders include providing support for the community pharmacies in their PCNs to engage with the PCNs over a minimum of eight hours per three months.

The guidance also suggested that the post-holders work across PCNs to agree local arrangements with general practice for delivering the Pharmacy First service, including creating a standard operating procedure and a protocol for referral and escalation into the service.

ICBs are expected to report back in September 2024 and March 2025 through their regional senior pharmacy integration lead on how many PCN engagement leads are in place and “give an overview of their activity and impact”, the guidance said.

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, May 2024, Vol 312, No 7985;312(7985)::DOI:10.1211/PJ.2024.1.317449

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