This article by Julia Sutton-McGough reflects on previous work with community pharmacy leaders who described different experiences when trying to join PCN discussions.
Health and social care services nationally have faced growing pressure due to COVID-19. Community pharmacies have remained open during this time, available for communities to seek advice relating to their health and wellbeing, access treatments for minor illness and to collect prescriptions.
Pharmacy teams have needed to adapt how they deliver services and implement social distancing measures and infection control procedures.
In addition, it has been necessary to display signage to limit how many people enter the store at once, to help customers to navigate the store safely and restrict payment to card only methods.
In this new world pharmacy staff also needed to adjust to personal protective equipment and new ways of working and perhaps manage their own anxiety about the situation as well as support colleagues, the community and their own families.
Prior to COVID-19 community pharmacy leaders (representing a group of pharmacy contractors in their locality) were starting to contact local primary care networks (PCNs) to start the conversation about how pharmacy services can develop and adapt to help address local population health priorities.
Previous PCC workshops with community pharmacy leaders described different experiences when trying to contact clinical directors and join PCN discussions. Some were already attending meetings and sharing ideas whereas others were struggling to make contact. Understandably, due to the pressures on clinical directors time it was important for them to understand how this input would benefit their team and their patients. This is something that is important for community pharmacy to work through prior to engaging with the PCN.
Our sessions highlighted a number of potential advantages to patients through maximising the involvement of community pharmacists such as improved access, tailored services and enhanced communication. For practices there are many opportunities including reducing workforce pressures, linking community pharmacy with PCN clinical pharmacists and to increase the profile of community pharmacy in the delivery of wellbeing services.
In some areas the COVID-19 challenge has led to enhanced relationships and supported closer working with primary care teams and networks. The pivotal role of community pharmacy in supporting their neighbourhoods to be resilient is important now more than ever.
The data shows us that we are past the peak of COVID-19 and conversations have started to move to planning for the next phase.
However, there is still a fair amount of uncertainty regarding a second peak and the possible extent of other pressures on health and social care due to the impact of interrupted care for chronic conditions during the pandemic.
Taking time to stop and work out what happens next is difficult when you are in the midst of so much change. To facilitate this PCC have developed a virtual development offer, encouraging community pharmacy leads and pharmacy contractors to step away to reflect, refresh and recharge in a supportive environment.
The short programme includes 3 virtual 1.5 hour Zoom sessions delivered over a 9-week period. The interactive sessions will include time for the group to reflect on what they have learned through COVID-19, and to consider what the recent changes mean for pre-COVID 19 priorities and to develop ideas for the future vision for community pharmacy and how they can best work as part of the PCN.
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