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£3m needed to facilitate pharmacists' engagement with PCNs, LPC says

Hemant Patel: Pharmacist's absence requires locum cover, which is a minimum of £200 per day
Hemant Patel: Pharmacist's absence requires locum cover, which is a minimum of £200 per day

A minimum of £3 million is required to fund locum cover for pharmacists to attend monthly primary care network (PCN) engagement meetings, an LPC secretary has calculated.

As part of the Pharmacy Quality Scheme (PQS), community pharmacies are being encouraged to engage with PCNs – networks of GP surgeries covering around 30,000-50,000 patients – and have been asked to nominate a PCN lead for all the community pharmacies wishing to engage with a local network.

However, a minimum of £3m is needed to facilitate pharmacists’ attendance to monthly PCN meetings, north-east London local pharmaceutical committee (LPC) secretary Hemant Patel said yesterday (December 1) at a Sigma Pharmaceuticals seminar in London.

A total of 1,259 PCNs have been formed across England in July, NHS England confirmed to C+D. With each PCN hosting at least 12 meetings a year, Mr Patel calculated that pharmacists will have to attend on average 15,000 meetings per year.

“The law requires pharmacists to be present on premises during opening hours. Any absence requires a backfill, which is a minimum of £200 per day for pharmacists to go and attend a meeting organised by a PCN,” Mr Patel explained to C+D today (December 2).

“Then you have sub-committee meetings, research, support and communication costs. At another half a day, you [would need] another £1.5m,” he added.

“No additional costs for GPs”

While PCN meetings have “no additional costs” for GPs, as they are likely to be “arranged after surgery hours”, community pharmacies are sometimes open from 9am to 7pm, which means a locum will be required as a “backfill” every time a pharmacist needs to attend a PCN meeting, he stressed.

As part of the funding contract for England, the Department of Health and Social Care has proposed legislative changes to “allow for better use of the skill mix in pharmacies and enable the clinical integration of pharmacists”. This includes looking at the role of the responsible pharmacist, for example, allowing them to leave the pharmacy during core hours to engage in PCN work.

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