Primary care networks (PCNs) in some clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) will be able to hire pharmacy technicians six weeks earlier than expected, NHS England has said.
In a letter sent to commissioners on 20 February 2020, Ed Waller, director of primary care strategy at NHS England, said CCGs in some areas “are forecasting an underspend” on their allocated funding for PCNs to hire pharmacists and social prescribers in 2019/2020.
This money can now be used to recruit pharmacy technicians or fund full salaries for PCN pharmacists, the letter said.
In January 2019, NHS England promised each PCN £37,810 to cover 70% of the costs of hiring one pharmacist in 2019/2020, with a further £34,113 available to cover the cost of hiring one social prescriber through the ‘additional roles reimbursement scheme’ (ARRS).
However, some PCNs have failed to spend their full allocation from CCGs, and there are currently “unused financial entitlements”, the letter revealed.
As a result, NHS England is encouraging “commissioners to use this unspent entitlement to enable PCNs to recruit now to any of the ten roles which will be included in the ARRS from 1 April 2020”.
Pharmacy technicians and seven other healthcare professions were added to the ARRS as part of the GP contract update on 6 February 2020, with effect from 1 April 2020.
Waller’s letter told CCGs that they could also use the unclaimed funds “to reimburse any new appointments [including pharmacists] from 17 February at 100% of salary and employer ‘on-costs’”.
From 1 April 2020, PCNs are expected to be given “100% reimbursement” to cover full costs for all ten ARSS roles, which would amount to £55,670 per pharmacist and £35,389 per pharmacy technician.
Claire Anderson, chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society English Pharmacy Board, said the increase in funding for pharmacists and pharmacy technicians “shows how important they will be to help PCNs deliver better and safer care for patients, including around structured medication reviews and care homes”.
“There is a need now to make sure these jobs are attractive, exciting and focused on quality, with opportunities for PCN pharmacists to develop throughout their careers,” she said.
The letter comes after Nikki Kanani, primary care medical director for NHS England and NHS Improvement, told The Pharmaceutical Journal that PCNs have faced difficulty in recruiting experienced pharmacists in some areas of the country, particularly in the south west of England.
Liz Fidler, president of the Association of Pharmacy Technicians UK, said funding for pharmacy technicians to be hired by PCNs “is hugely welcomed as positive step and a real demonstration towards recognising the skills, knowledge and valuable contribution that pharmacy technicians make to patient care”.
“The recognition of the profession within the contract, I hope, will enable work to be undertaken around workforce strategy, careers and additional education.”