NHS England is developing guidance on sharing the pharmacy workforce between primary care networks (PCNs) and other pharmacy employers, the government has said.
In response to the House of Commons Health and Social Care Committee’s report on ‘Workforce: recruitment, training and retention in health and social care’, published on 25 July 2022, the government said it did not agree with the MPs’ recommendation for a workforce plan for the pharmacy sector.
The committee’s report had recommended that the government develop “an integrated and funded workforce plan for pharmacy which must be developed and laid before Parliament within 12 months”.
However, in its response, published on 21 April 2023, the government said: “We do not agree with this recommendation for a specific pharmacy workforce plan. However, we are working across the system to ensure that the future role of the pharmacy workforce is considered as part of the ‘Long-term workforce plan’, to be published later this year.”
The response added that NHS England was also “currently developing guidance to support the introduction of shared workforce models between PCN and other pharmacist employers, mitigating short-term local supply issues and aiding longer-term retention”.
This comes after Janet Morrison, chief executive of the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC), said in October 2022 that the government should stop the recruitment of pharmacists into PCNs and instead “look at workforce planning across primary care”.
In September 2021, Keith Ridge, former chief pharmaceutical officer for England, also said recruitment of thousands of pharmacists into PCNs is “causing some challenges” for the workforce.
Commenting on the government’s response, Alastair Buxton, director of NHS services at the PSNC, said: “The dire workforce situation in the sector needs urgent action, including better workforce planning at a national level for the pharmacy professions.
“That needs to be a key outcome from the NHS’ ‘Long-term workforce plan’, which we hope will be published without further delay. While there are no easy short-term solutions when it comes to growing the pharmacy workforce, the sooner appropriate workforce planning starts, the earlier it might have a positive impact.”
The committee’s initial recommendations took on board evidence given by Ravi Sharma, then director for England at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society.
During an oral evidence session on 24 May 2022, Sharma called for a “comprehensive workforce strategy for pharmacy that embeds structured career development for pharmacists wherever they may be working”.
According to the latest data published by NHS Digital in February 2023, between December 2021 and December 2022, the number of full-time equivalent pharmacists in PCNs rose from 2,923 to 3,880 — a 33% increase over the year.
NHS England did not provide comment in time for publication.