A quarter of England still does not have a local professional network (LPN) to provide pharmacists with a commissioning voice, an exclusive C+D investigation has revealed.
Seven of NHS England's 27 area teams – including all three of the teams in London – had not established an LPN for pharmacy by the end of July, according to data C+D received from NHS England in response to a freedom of information (FOI) request.
Although LPNs were set up last year to work with commissioners and provide clinical leadership, three established LPNs had met with commissioners fewer than five times, NHS England said.
The amount of money allocated to each pharmacy LPN also varied, despite each area team being given a total of £120,000 to spend on its LPNs for pharmacy, dentistry and optometry. Lancashire's pharmacy LPN was specifically allocated just £17,000 – 14 per cent of the total sum – while others, including Essex and Greater Manchester, received a full allocation of £40,000.
Eight areas did not allocate a specific amount to their pharmacy LPN, instead splitting the overall sum between its three LPNs.
Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire LPN had had the highest number of meetings with commissioners – more than 50 since April 2013. LPN member and contractor Nick Hunter said its success was down to a "flexible" approach that allowed "anyone interested" to attend meetings.
Rehka Shah, chief executive of LPC consortium Pharmacy London, said the delay in forming an LPN could benefit pharmacists in the capital by giving them a chance to learn from other areas.
"There's more commitment now. Maybe it's late, but maybe that's for the best. All of us have got more areas to learn from," she said.
Despite there being no established LPN in Thames Valley, the LPN chair had managed to meet with commissioners 13 times since the individual was appointed in December 2013, NHS England said. In contrast, Bristol, North Somerset, Somerset and Gloucestershire LPN established a chair in the same month but had held only two meetings with commissioners.
Kent and Medway LPN was established shortly after April 2013, but contractor Sunil Kochhar said it had failed to communicate with pharmacists and he called for the LPN to be more "transparent". "We don't know who it consists of, how we get involved, what it has spent and what it's spent on," he said.
Visit C+D's interactive map to see what progress the LPN in your area has made: chemistanddruggist.co.uk/LPN-investigation