Additional £28m for primary care in Scotland may be used to accelerate recruitment of GP pharmacists

Exclusive: Critics argue that pharmacy should have been specifically mentioned in the funding announcement, owing to the impact additional winter pressures could have on pharmacy services.
NHS Scotland sign of Scottish Ambulance Service at St John's Hospital, Livingston

Part of a £300m winter funding package by the Scottish government into health and social care may be used towards developing the role of pharmacy within primary care multidisciplinary teams, it has said.

The Scottish government announced the winter investment package on 5 October 2021, aimed at tackling the “toughest winter the NHS and social care system has ever faced”.

The announcement on the Scottish government’s website said primary care would be allocated up to £28m for measures including “accelerated multidisciplinary recruitment to aid general practice”.

When asked by The Pharmaceutical Journal whether additional funding would be allocated to the national pharmacotherapy service and increasing the number of pharmacists working in general practice, a spokesperson for the Scottish government said: “We are currently considering how best to utilise that funding.

“This could, for example, include the role of pharmacy working as part of a multidisciplinary team,” they added.

Under the original plans for a national pharmacotherapy service, which was announced as part of ‘The 2018 general medical services contract in Scotland‘, all GP practices in Scotland were asked to provide a level one pharmacotherapy service — including pharmacy-run medicines reconciliation, as well as acute and repeat prescribing services — by April 2021.

In July 2021, the Scottish government agreed that regulations would be amended to extend this deadline until April 2022.

However, in August 2021, a press release from Community Pharmacy Scotland called for a “temporary stop to the recruitment of pharmacy workforce to GP primary care support roles”, saying that the shift towards pharmacy roles in general practice had occurred “with no planning to account for the needs of hospital or community pharmacy services, with the vast majority of individuals coming from the latter”.

In response to this, Andrew Carruthers, chair of the RPS Scottish Pharmacy Board, told The Pharmaceutical Journal that while the RPS agrees that “meaningful workforce planning” is essential, “we don’t believe that a pause in recruitment to GP practice pharmacy posts is the answer”.

Commenting on the funding package, Clare Morrison, director of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society in Scotland, said: “Whilst we welcome this additional funding to help increase NHS and social care capacity this winter, it is disappointing that pharmacy isn’t specifically mentioned.

“We are concerned that additional winter pressures could have a negative impact on pharmacy services,” she added.

“It is vital that some of this funding is used to support pharmacy services across all sectors of the health service. We note the announcement includes opportunities to recruit additional healthcare support staff and hope this will include pharmacy team members.”

The spokesperson for the Scottish government also said that it has “invested £7.5m of a committed £10m funding in the ‘NHS Pharmacy First Scotland‘ service”. 

“As we head into winter, this investment will support community pharmacy as the first port of call for expert healthcare advice on self-care or treatments for everyday minor ailments and common clinical conditions through NHS Pharmacy First as part of their contribution to winter pressures,” they said.

NHS Pharmacy First Scotland was launched across the nation on 29 July 2020, after being postponed from its original start date of 22 April 2020. Nearly 500,000 consultations were carried out under the service between January 2021 and March 2021.

This additional Pharmacy First funding was announced on 25 August 2021, when the Scottish government published its NHS recovery plan 2021-2026‘.

The plan commits to increasing funding for the ‘NHS Pharmacy First Scotland’ service from £7.5m in 2021/2022 to £10m in 2022/2023.

READ MORE: ‘Pharmacy First is the art of pharmacy’.

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, October 2021, Vol 307, No 7954;307(7954)::DOI:10.1211/PJ.2021.1.109520

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