Primary care networks: getting started

by Stephanie West, RPS Regional Liaison Pharmacist

One of the things that excites me as a Regional Liaison Pharmacist for RPS is seeing examples of how local primary care professionals are coming together to discuss good patient care, provided by the right practitioner, close to home. So it was fantastic to see clear recognition of the key roles pharmacists play There are around 200 Primary Care Home sites across England serving about nine million patients in addition to other new models of care such as multispecialty community providers. These models focus care on local population needs rather than on the individual services. They provide a real opportunity for pharmacists to work collaboratively with primary care colleagues helping people to ‘keep well’ in their own community and out of hospital.

Of course, local systems are at different stages of maturity. Some areas are establishing community pharmacy within local place-based teams, others are just starting the conversation. In other areas the thought of closer working between primary care practitioners may feel rather distant. The commitment to expand the number of pharmacists within Primary Care Networks and a commitment to “make greater use of community pharmacists’ skills” in the Long Term Plan will I hope bring an increased impetus to share learning, build up and embed good practice.

Successful integration

The National Association of Primary Care has recently shared two videos showcasing how pharmacy has successfully integrated into two integrated primary care models. Healthier Fleetwood Primary Care Home has a model where community pharmacists manage long term conditions such as COPD.  And in Plymouth, collaborative working between community pharmacy and GP practices within the Beacon Medical Group Primary Care Home has improved flu vaccination rates for people with respiratory conditions.

Both these models demonstrate how GPs and community pharmacists, along with nurses, other health professionals and the voluntary sector can work together to improve local population health and access to services.

I think there’s a clear message: only by working in partnership to identify common goals can we deliver change at pace. There is a real focus on integrating pharmacy and medicines optimisation at STP level to address these issues.

Collaboration

Primary Care Networks are a great opportunity for pharmacists to work collaboratively, not just with other healthcare professionals, but with each other. Making the time to come together is a challenge in itself, but essential to build the trust and confidence needed to develop closer working and deliver new models of care. Primary care practitioners may not have a full understanding of each other’s roles and hence of the potential areas for collaboration.

A useful guide for local pharmacy leaders is Primary care home: community pharmacy integration and innovation from the National Association of Primary Care. RPS also has a number of projects and campaigns which could support pharmacists in getting the conversation started. These include driving forward IT interoperability to give read-write access to patient care records, and pharmacist led care for patients with long-term conditions. You can also read the RPS response to NHS England on developing the NHS Long-Term Plan.

If you have experience of working in partnership with GP Practices or other primary care providers within new models of care we would love to hear from you. Share what’s going well with the wider community. Let’s get the conversation started!

Contact stephanie.west@rpharms.com

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