Award Winners Interviews
Full team ahead!
Avon local pharmaceutical committee chief officer Richard Brown talks to Saša Jankovic about his no-frills team approach to getting things done…
“What we focus on in Avon is doing the simple things right,” says Richard Brown, chief officer of Avon Local Pharmaceutical Committee. This belies the success of an LPC that continues to be chosen to pilot and roll out a variety of national and local services, and which won the Best Supporting LPC category at the last Independent Pharmacy Awards.
Alongside navigating the challenges of the pandemic, 2020 saw Avon LPC negotiating additional services for its pharmacies including the national GP Community Pharmacy Consultation Service pilot, and CCG-wide roll-out of a suite of patient group directives (PGDs).
LPC support also helped contractors meet their contractual obligations. Over 99 per cent of pharmacies in the area hit the gateway for pharmacy quality scheme, giving pharmacies in Avon a share of around £1.34 million.
Since the “rollercoaster ride” of last year, Richard says 2021 has seen the LPC settle into its stride. “This year has allowed us to reinvigorate our main strategic aims”, he says, “which include supporting and empowering community pharmacies across Avon to deliver key services, as well as building on our working relationships with primary care and ensuring pharmacy’s participation in the newly forming ICSs.”
As primary care and GP surgeries get back to what will be a ‘new normal’, pharmacies in the region have also been able to show their mettle via the CPCS referral scheme.
“We lost six months’ worth of CPSC project implementation at the start of Covid, then it picked up, then plateaued with the vaccine campaign, and has leapt forward again now”, says Richard, “which ties in with the GP CPCS as GPs are under significant pressure and our pharmacies are able to help with releasing that. In June alone our pharmacies carried out over 2,600 consultations, which was a big step up for us.”
Another benefit has come from pharmacy’s flat-out role over the past year and its increased visibility. Richard says this has “built genuine recognition of the role of community pharmacy and the expertise of pharmacy teams. The pandemic has definitely made this more obvious to other parts of primary care.”
A team approach
Alongside the impressive move forward with CPCS, Richard is keen to recognise his team’s hard work and achievements in joining up the flow of support and communications between contractors and commissioners.
“We couldn’t deliver CPCS without the phenomenal support we've had from NHSE and the CCG”, he says, “and we have fantastic links with contractors and our local authorities. Amongst other things this has enabled us to continue the important work we are doing with our PCN leads, carry out the deployment of PGDs that supplement the CPCS, and land the DMS when it went live at the start of this year.”
Although he has been nine years in post, Richard has known a lot of colleagues since before he was chief officer, and considers those in the CCG “like friends” – which he says is handy, “as having so many meetings on Zoom is a bit like letting people into your house”.
And while his operations team is now out in surgeries and pharmacies more than he is, Richard says the past years of taking the time to meet people face-to-face has helped build those vital relationships.
“Yes, there will always be bumps along the way in getting everyone on board with any new initiative, but the biggest difference now is that a commissioner trusts that if we say we are going to do something, one of my team will lead on delivery and we will deliver it.”
Despite this dedicated work in laying the foundations locally, all LPCs are aware that rumbling away in the background is the potential implementation of the 33 recommendations made by Professor David Wright in his Review into Contractor Representation and Support published last year, suggesting how they and PSNC can work more effectively together.
Some of the key recommendations include improving the links between local and national representation, as well merging some LPCs so that none represent fewer than 200 contractors. PSNC has said will be working through the recommendations with LPCs to find the best ways to collectively implement them.
Richard sees no need to pre-empt any decisions. “PSNC has its project team in place, and has started to share with us and contractors what will happen later in the year,” he says. “So, as far as Avon LPC goes, we can only be ready to respond to what comes out. We still have our strategic plan for this year and will manage any changes as they happen.”
The year ahead
Avon’s plan for rest of the year involves supporting its community pharmacies to take a lead on what Richard calls “the final bits of CPCS deployment” in their PCN areas, before the LPC turns its attention to implementing any new national services or pilots that start to come out.
“Covid makes things more difficult, and there are significant workplace pressures across the entire healthcare sector, but pharmacies have found a new way of working and gained recognition as a key part of primary care,” says Richard. “My hope for my contractors is this will continue to materialise in some of the central policies from NHSE.”
When it comes to his LPC’s success, he says there is no secret formula. “It’s about our team. We deliver what we deliver because of the people who are in the team,” he says. “The committee gives structure around our strategy, which links through the chair of the LPC, Lisa Fisher, and me, into our operations team of Judith Poulton, Barbara Coleman, Roger Herbert and Debbie Scudamore. Everybody plays their part.
“Everyone knows the things they are accountable for, and everybody delivers. It’s easy to say but difficult to do. Our strategic aims probably haven’t changed that much in the last three years, so we don’t need to chop and change and do different things. We just need to do what we need to do really well.”