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LPC network must get its house in order


LPC network must get its house in order

Showcasing what our sector can do locally is far more effective when there are fewer, stronger voices, says Company Chemists’ Association chief executive Malcolm Harrison

In past columns for P3pharmacy I have tended to focus on national issues. This time, I wish to reflect on local matters.

Local Pharmaceutical Committees, or LPCs, occupy an important part of the pharmacy landscape. They play an integral role in ensuring the health of a local pharmacy network, in the commissioning of local services and as a link to national matters of importance. In short, they are a hotbed of knowledge, support and collaboration. In recent times, the LPC network has undergone significant transformation.

The CCA places around 350 of its members’ colleagues onto LPCs and supports them to make sure that, in turn, they can help ensure the LPC network is fit for purpose and able to deliver for contractors in every locality. To that effect, we are fortunate to have a dedicated LPC support manager, Robert Severn, who has decades of lived LPC experience and insight. Through Rob and his colleagues at the CCA, we are uniquely placed to observe local activities nationwide, identifying opportunities and risks, and supporting CCA LPC representatives through the development of guidance, and provision of regular intelligence as well as disseminating best practice.

The advent of Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) and the decision to delegate commissioning of all pharmaceutical services to the local systems has undeniably increased the importance of LPCs, and the scope of their importance is likely to grow even further.

The Wright Review spoke of the importance of local relationships and the need, where appropriate, to provide different geographies with different solutions. It also recommended that LPCs be reviewed with NHS geographical footprints in mind.

The reorganisation of the NHS landscape has given LPCs the impetus to coalesce around ICS footprints. This has led to the merger of many LPCs so that one LPC can work collaboratively with one Integrated Care Board (ICB). This is a positive and common sense move.

Unfortunately, these changes have not been uniform across the whole of England. We are still seeing cases of multiple LPCs engaging with a single ICB. Contractors in these patches are missing out on the consistency that a single coherent voice can provide.

I believe that it is now time for the remaining LPCs to come on board. The benefits that we have seen where realignment has been delivered are huge. If an ICB wishes to commission the pharmacy network in its patch to do something, it can negotiate with one LPC, rather than two or three. LPCs have a huge role to play in the promotion of the new Pharmacy First service and ensuring strong relationships with GPs. Showcasing what our sector can do locally is far more effective when there are fewer, stronger voices.

We envisage that as more ICBs review the provision of pharmaceutical care in their patch and begin to commission pharmaceutical services, a ‘halo effect’ will be created, prompting neighbouring ICBs to consider doing the same.

This is exactly the ‘virtuous circle’ that the sector needs to spur further investment. After all, community pharmacy has a strong track-record. When you commission through pharmacies, they deliver.

However, geographical boundary changes are only one element of the reforms set out in the Wright review and recommended by the subsequent Review Steering Group (RSG). Across the breadth of England, we see excellent examples of LPC governance and financial rigour. Unfortunately, we are also aware of considerable variance in standards across the LPC network. It is critically important that every LPC has its house in order, to ensure it is financially and organisationally sound. Effective representation is a by-product of sound governance, after all.

Across LPC land, we are seeing some excellent examples of best practice that provide food for thought. Take Community Pharmacy Surrey and Sussex, for example, who managed to secure a much-needed uplift on several locally commissioned services, including emergency hormonal contraception, smoking cessation and substance misuse.

Meanwhile, Community Pharmacy Greater Manchester has a development role focusing on service delivery. In collaboration with the ICB, the LPC has produced a series of articles to help pharmacies maximise their success in service delivery. The results are ensuring local patients receive quality care from their community pharmacy.

Time and time again, the pharmacy network has had to prove its worth.

The Pharmacy First service is a seminal moment for the sector. It’s the first time, in what feels like a very long time, that policymakers have recognised the untapped potential of pharmacy teams. Of course, the sector is under tremendous pressure and this new workload, despite the investment in it, comes at a particularly challenging time for the network.

The opportunity to build upon Pharmacy First is one that we must not miss out on. But before we can build, we must ensure the foundations are steady – and LPCs are fundamental to this. Like any diverse network, the LPC network is full of exemplars, but it also contains examples of organisations who must move with the times, evolve and change.

If the LPC network gets its collective ‘house’ in order, we will have a tremendous basis for growth.

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