Primary care trusts: love them or loathe them, there are some organisations pharmacies just can’t function without, and PCTs are high on that list. But however much contact you have with your local trust, you might not have considered ever working for it.
Some would say this is a mistake. Kevin Noble is pharmacy lead for Isle of Wight PCT and says “I’ve never had as much fun in all my life”.
Mr Noble’s role involves monitoring pharmacy contracts within the PCT and trying to integrate pharmacy into PCT services. If you enjoy communicating and making contacts, this sort of role could be for you, as Mr Noble has to build links with both primary and secondary care and says his job involves both “a bit of service development and a bit of telling other people about what I’m doing to gain support”.
Mohamed Kanji works for Havering PCT in a joint role in medicines management and community pharmacy and says working for a PCT can also be less hectic on a day-to-day basis than working in a busy dispensary. For those who thrive on structure, the roles could also be good, as Mr Kanji says PCTs tend to have lots of protocols and quite strict hierarchical structures. The pay might not be as good as a locum’s at first, but moving up these structures can lead to ever-increasing salaries.
If you think this could be the role for you, then what should you do next? The key thing is to get started now. As world class commissioning is brought in, it is possible that PCTs will be looking to put people with commissioning experience, rather than pharmacy knowledge, in charge of commissioning pharmacy services. As Mr Kanji says: “If people want to do this they should make a move now because it may become more difficult.”
That said, Mr Kanji says there remain plenty of opportunities for pharmacists within PCTs. They could look to public health teams, consider medicines management, or even think about working for the PCT on a part-time basis. Mr Kanji works 20 hours a week for Havering PCT, and says such roles can expand community pharmacists’ horizons. “Unfortunately, pharmacy can be very isolated,” he says, “but things are changing and it’s good to broaden your horizons. It could also give your career another dimension.”
One way to do this is through being a sessional pharmacist, contracted by the PCT to carry out specific work or projects, in a more consultancy based role. You might be advising on prescribing, or going through doctors’ records to try to help specific groups of patients. Some pharmacists are even sent to see patients to do clinical reviews and check their medicines.
PCT professional executive committees, which try to ensure the PCTs invest in the right services to boost health, might also be a good place to start. Mr Kanji advises that pharmacists looking for a role in PCTs might first want to sit on these committees as “this can give you a good grasp of what is happening in the PCT”. Taking on such roles and getting to know people within the PCT like this is a good way to get your foot on the ladder.
Building relationships with a range of healthcare professionals is likely to be a key part in any PCT role. So if you are looking to apply, any links you can build up beforehand would be a good idea. You might want to consider sitting on an LPC to show you are engaged with pharmacy politics. The LPC should also know about any opportunities for pharmacists in the PCT.
Mr Noble further advises that demonstrating a keen interest in the clinical side of pharmacy is good, as these are ultimately the types of services you will be establishing.
If you’re looking for more advice, the Primary Care Pharmacists’ Association might be a good place to start. And if you still need convincing that a PCT can be a good place to work, Mr Kanji stresses the importance of the role PCT pharmacists play in promoting and furthering their profession. “We need more pharmacists to get involved,” he says.