It will cost two London local pharmacy committees (LPCs) up to £75,000 to ensure that community pharmacy can engage with primary care networks (PCNs).
Raj Matharu, chief officer for both Bexley, Bromley and Greenwich LPC and Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham LPC, told The Pharmaceutical Journal that community pharmacy is “crying out” for financial support for PCN engagement as pharmacy contractors are already facing a difficult financial situation.
Matharu said the LPCs were “keeping the channels open” between PCNs and pharmacists, having spoken to the Londonwide Local Medical Committee, which represents GPs in London, regarding its approach to community pharmacy involvement.
“[LPCs are looking] for their local pharmacist to be involved, so we’re in the process of doing a mapping exercise,” he said.
“Both LPCs have mapped out where the community pharmacies are and then we’re going to align them with their counterparts in primary care networks and we’re calling that a cluster of community pharmacies. Hopefully we’ll get some leadership out of that.”
The clusters are expected to align with the 37 PCNs that fall within the LPCs’ boundaries: five in Bexley, eight in Bromley, six in Greenwich, eight in Lambeth, eight in Lewisham and two in Southwark.
PCNs, which were announced as part of the ‘NHS Long Term Plan’ on 7 January 2019, came into effect on 1 July 2019, with 1,259 PCNs covering 99.7% of England.
But Matharu added: “There’s not a lot of money at the moment. Any work that is going to happen moving forward, we’re going to have to work with whatever budgets are available.”
Having already spent £5,000 for each LPC to engage with its PCNs, Matharu said the LPCs have “also earmarked [money] to support and facilitate the PCN cluster of pharmacies, so we’ll help to support their meetings as well”.
“It’s going to [cost] between £50,000 and £75,000 [to facilitate this] … we’ve got to be very careful because that has an impact on our levies at a time when it’s a pretty difficult [time] for our contractor base,” he said.
He added that community pharmacists leading the clusters will require training to “ensure that they’re able to articulate their arguments and influence”.
But he said this cannot be done “with no sustainable funding behind it because it’s not possible anymore in community pharmacy for us to provide any sort of unfunded services”.
In a blog published on the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) website on 3 July 2019, its chief executive Simon Dukes agreed that LPC engagement with PCNs “costs money” and said it was part of ongoing community pharmacy contract negotiations with the government.
“I have been asked by many of you to negotiate a funding pot to help with this engagement, and I am not breaking any confidentiality if I say that it is absolutely on the PSNC list of requirements,” he said.