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Integrating community pharmacy and primary care

Written by | 3 Feb 2023 | 'In Discussion With'

As President of the National Association for Primary Care, Professor Ashok Soni OBE, hopes to use his position be a voice on behalf of the broader perception of primary care and carry forward the NAPC’s original objectives of enabling people at local level to build services from the ground up.

The National Association of Primary Care (NAPC) is an organisation that is focused on the delivery of care outside hospital. “Their perception and the description of primary care is basically everything outside hospital, whether that’s social care whether that’s the voluntary sector, …. community services, pharmacy, dentistry optometry, general practice – it’s all of it – and the role of the NAPC has been to be about how .. we improve care at local level”, says Professor Soni.

NAPC created the concept of ‘Primary Care Home’ which was about local working based around populations of between 50 and 100,000, so that there was a group of people who were responsible for the care of the population within that area.  NHS England adopted the idea and developed Primary Care Networks (PCNs). Unfortunately this lost sight of the original objective of Primary Care Home that was “about enabling people at local level to build things from the ground up, in a way, and to think about how and what they need to do”, explains Professor Soni.

One of his objectives as president is to raise the profile of pharmacy but also to “be a voice on behalf of the broader perception of primary care”.

This, he says, is about “driving home this difference between primary care and general practice and the fact [that] the two terms are not interchangeable …. you might talk about primary medical care and primary pharmaceutical care and primary dental care and primary optometry care but altogether they provide primary care. And that includes the voluntary sector, community sector [and] all of the other providers that can help support patients and the public to improve their care. If we get this right, the principle has to be [to] support neighbourhoods to build more resilience within their populations which enables the clinicians, whoever they are – the professionals, to be there to provide the care that’s needed at a time when it is needed.

Key messages

Professor Soni summarises his key messages:

Pharmacists should recognise how skilled and talented they are and recognise that they can use those skills and talents to provide better care and support better care for the public they are there to support.

Integrated Care Services (and pharmacists within the ICS) should think about how they can integrate with others and work collaboratively with other professions to provide the best care for people and keep focused on patient-centred care. “If you look at a lot of the work that happens it still tends to be driven by what the professionals, the clinicians, whoever they are, can do rather than what the public needs.  What we have to do is move much closer to being able to deliver what the public need and by supporting that we’re then able to deliver better outcomes for everybody that we serve”, he says.

Finally, Professor Soni’s message to the Secretary of State is: “We can help; there are things that we can do. Medicines are the single biggest intervention of the NHS   so actually pharmacists are a critical part of it – not just pharmacists at hospital level or pharmacists in general practice or pharmacists in ICSs or community pharmacists – all pharmacists have a role to play in supporting improving care. If you really want us to help, we can – just come and ask us, let us. We want to be part of your solution – we can be part of your solution – but you have to include us for that to happen.”

About Ashok Soni OBE

Ashok Soni OBE is president of the National Association of Primary Care (NAPC) and is the first pharmacist to hold this position. As a community pharmacist and owner of three pharmacies, much of his time over the past two to three years has been devoted to vaccinations.  Having “some incredibly talented staff” has enabled him to take on a number of other roles: He is a non-executive director at Oxford University Hospitals and  a non-executive director at Sussex Integrated Care Systems (ICS), known as NHS Sussex, where he chairs the Workforce and Remuneration body.

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