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The Community Pharmacy Primary Care Network Engagement Role | An opportunity or doomed to fail?

Updated: Jun 5

At THC, we provide resources for Primary Care leaders.

This week's blog, which is hot off the press, focuses on NHSE's announcement of the community pharmacy primary care network engagement role to support the regional implementation of the Primary Care Access Recovery Plan, which was published on 28 May 2024.

Let's jump in!

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The Community Pharmacy Primary Care Network Engagement Role | An opportunity or doomed to fail?

Within the delivery plan for recovering access to primary care, the ambition is to:  


🎯 Empower patients by rolling out tools they can use to manage their own health and invest up to £645 million over two years to expand services offered by community pharmacies. 

🎯 Remove barriers to innovation and improve IT connectivity with other parts of the NHS. 

🎯 Support both community pharmacies and distance-selling pharmacies (DSP) to receive referrals more promptly, manage appointments remotely where appropriate, and more rapidly update patient records. 

🎯 Launch Pharmacy First so that community pharmacies can supply prescription-only medicines for seven common conditions. This, together with oral contraception (OC) and blood pressure (BP) expansion, is estimated to save 10 million appointments in general practice a year once scaled.

🎯 Maximise where appropriate signposting to self-care or other local services such as community pharmacies.  

🎯 Promote the use of the NHS App’s repeat prescription functionality.  


Please note this list is not exhaustive. The delivery plan for recovering access to primary care can be found here. 

The purpose of the community pharmacy primary care network engagement role

The engagement role is designed to develop channels of engagement between community pharmacies and PCNs and build partnerships that support integrated clinical pathways for patients.


The expectation is that the role will function as a point of contact for local community pharmacies and general practices in the PCN. 



The creation of this post indicates the challenges of implementing pharmacy first down on the ground and also the desire to be able to better understand what needs to be in place to ensure the pathways are streamlined and patients get the care they need without bouncing unnecessarily back to the GP practice. 


The role doesn’t specify the background of the engagement role, but it does suggest the role would be a pharmacist. What should be crucial is an understanding of primary care networks, as these people need to hit the ground running and be based in the locality.  


The role currently is a fixed-term appointment funded from 1 April 2024 until 31 March 2025. 

Per PCN, the funding for this post equates to £1,040.

For ICBs that have 22 or fewer PCNs, this will only fund a part-time role.


The challenges every primary care leader faces when leading and mobilising activities across multiple organisational boundaries are: 


➡️ Trying to appeal to those with influence to explain why improving their service benefits them in a sea of; multiple conflicting priorities, quality improvement initiatives, a workforce under pressure, increased meeting agendas, and waning engagement in many networks.  


➡️ Choosing a few key priorities to focus on rather than trying to improve everything at once. They also need clarity on what they are trying to achieve and a clear baseline from which to start.



One of the suggested responsibilities for this engagement role is to contribute to PCN clinical meetings, develop relationships and work closely with their PCN clinical directors, PCN pharmacy teams, and other community pharmacy PCN engagement leads.  


I would also like to suggest that the PCN Managers could help engagement roles navigate the network.  


The acknowledgement that more resources are needed to implement the ambition of the delivery plan for recovering access to primary care should be welcomed, and this could be a really exciting role for those with: 


🎯 Both an understanding of pharmacy and PCNs 

🎯 Drive, resilience and tenacity 

🎯 Focussed priorities  

🎯 A team that can provide guidance and support  


For those without the elements above, this role could be doomed to fail before they even start.  

We hope this provides an overview of the role and remit, as those new in posts may be knocking on your door very soon.

About the Author

Tara and Team THC provide project and network management and training to Primary Care Networks. Between our training programmes, facilitation and interim network programmes, we have now supported over 120 PCNs!

Tara has an MBA in Healthcare Leadership and Management, is published in the London Journal of Primary Care, is the author of over 250 blogs, and hosts The Business of Healthcare Podcast, where we have released over 290 episodes. 


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