Associate feature: Do we need to rethink partnership working in primary care?

Written by Matt Barclay on 29 March 2019 in Comment

Matt Barclay, Director of Operations, Community Pharmacy Scotland, says we should explore how Community Pharmacy teams and other healthcare professionals can work in partnership with each other

Image credit: Community Pharmacy Scotland

We started with a GP crisis and the NHS has been making efficiency-led cuts for years, yet now we are facing increased pressure on other healthcare professionals with no end to this situation in sight. Is it time to be less territorial within the Health field?

The new General Medical Services contract for GPs is having a knock-on impact for other healthcare professionals in Scotland – the aim of the contract change is to allow GPs to turn their Surgeries into Health Hubs and directly employ other healthcare professionals to support their work. If viewed in isolation, this is a great solution which allows pharmacists, nurses, physiotherapists and others to work in a GP Practice and be at a single accessible point for patients.

Nevertheless, our Public Health field does not work in isolation, and this contract is having serious implications for other employers of these healthcare professionals and, more importantly, the ability of patients to access them. The impact on Community Pharmacy is beginning to be seen, with pharmacy vacancy rates increasing. We hear of similar challenges for our colleagues in Hospital Pharmacy too. The crux of the issue is that there have been hundreds of new pharmacy jobs created, without an increase in the size of the pool of pharmacists in Scotland.

What could we do to improve this situation?

We should explore how Community Pharmacy teams and other healthcare professionals can work in partnership with each other. For example, the Pharmacotherapy service within the GMS contract will be supported by pharmacists hired in to the new roles being created, however Community Pharmacists could also help with many of the aims and objectives of this. Support for patients with long term conditions is a key part of any future Community Pharmacy activity, so this should dovetail with related activity elsewhere and provide added value for the NHS too.

Portfolio models, which could see diverse arrangements such as a pharmacist work in a Community Pharmacy three days a week and a GP Surgery the other two, have been explored in some Health Boards. Is this something we should explore further to develop the joint understanding of the benefits to patients?

The barrier to this is mostly that it is not the norm and that an individual would need to work across a Health Board, Integrated Joint Board and their Community Pharmacy employer to achieve this. We should not let this barrier stop us from considering whether we develop the career in this direction, and we should work together to discuss and potentially facilitate this development. It is clear that further integration within the health field is the only option to create a well-functioning Public Health service in Scotland and for this to happen we need to start talking across disciplines and thinking in new ways.

With the changing Health and Social Care landscape now is the ideal opportunity to look into new models across the sectors and between professions.

Matt Barclay is Director of Operations at Community Pharmacy Scotland

This piece was sponsored by Community Pharmacy Scotland

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