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Pharmacies 2 years behind GPs in becoming ‘collaborative competitors’

Adam Irvine (second from right) spoke at a Pharmacy Show panel on service development
Adam Irvine (second from right) spoke at a Pharmacy Show panel on service development

Pharmacies are two years behind GPs when it comes to working as “collaborative competitors”, the chief executive of a local pharmaceutical committee (LPC) has said.

Adam Irvine, chief executive of Community Pharmacy Cheshire and Wirral, explained that getting pharmacies who have traditionally been competitors to work together and alongside primary care networks (PCNs) is a “big challenge”, but has some “really positive” outcomes.

Mr Irvine said his LPC had been “facilitating allow pharmacies and local LPNs to talk together more collaboratively, to move from being competitors in the neighbourhood to being collaborative, because there is still the competition element within that.”

The “first stage” is deciding how LPCs “work together, communicate together and form a relationship” with PCNs, Mr Irvine said at the Pharmacy Show in Birmingham on Monday (October 7).

“The next stage is [deciding] how we deliver services and work together across them,” he continued. “That is a big challenge and I’m not trying to say it’ll be easy, but it’s something we’ve got on the radar.”

In terms of collaboration, Mr Irvine said it had taken pharmacies time to “mature” to the stage that they can say “hand on heart” that they collaborate, rather then compete with each other.

“If you look at the journey the GPs have been on…we’re probably a couple of years behind,” he added, referencing the GP federation model.

Numark: It will be a challenge

Getting all 11,500 community pharmacies in England to “deliver to the same level” will be a “challenge”, admitted Jeremy Meader, managing director of pharmacy support group Numark, who spoke on the same panel, on the theme of service development.

“We’re focusing on examples of what is best practice,” he explained, including looking at examples where GPs have worked “particularly effectively”.

Health champion collaborations

Deborah Crockford, chief officer at Hampshire and Isle of Wight LPC, said “collaboration of health champions” has worked well in her region.

This includes forming meeting groups where it is “very easy for them to collaborate and share best practice”. The LPC has also been “supporting the drive of the healthy living pharmacy project and the prevention agenda” across its pharmacies.

Have you had any contact with your local PCN?

Kevin Western, Community pharmacist

Could this be something to do with the disastrous attitude to 100 hour pharmacies opening far too many contracts, then the present government using commercial pressure to close Pharmacies? if your job is threatened, I cant see a bigger incentive to compete for every penny.

Maybe a different approach to Pharmacy funding would change the scenario.. how many GP surgeris have closed because they had funding withdrawn?

Leon The Apothecary, Student

I think Pharmacy has always struggled with "dragging its feet" when it comes to innovation, change, and modernisation. One could also argue the paradigm compared to GP surgeries fundamentally is different, and with that in consideration, is it fair to compare pharmacy to GP surgery?

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