The number of clinical pharmacists needed to work in the new Primary Care Networks (PCNs) in England by 2023/2024 could be as high as 7,500, according to London GP representitives.
This figure is noticably higher than the 6,000 clinical pharmacists predicted by the Company Chemists’ Association (CCA) in February 2019, which triggered concerns from pharmacy organisations about the impact it would have on recruitment across the sectors.
The Londonwide Local Medical Committees (LMC) — an organisation representing GPs across London — told The Pharmaceutical Journal that its calculation, which appeared in a March 2019 briefing on the GP contract, was based on having the maximum number of six clinical pharmacists within each PCN.
The calculation is supported by an NHS England briefing document, published in June 2019, in which the national body said it also expects that “by 2023/2024, a typical PCN … could choose to have its own team of approximately six whole-time equivalent clinical pharmacists”.
As of 1 July 2019, 1,259 PCNs became operational across England, confirming the demand for up to 7,500 clinical pharmacists.
However, while PCNs are expected to have at least one clinical pharmacist in post in 2019/2020, they will be given a lump sum to spend on workforce from April 2020 and can, therefore, recruit as many clinical pharmacists, social prescribing link workers, physician associates, physiotherapists and paramedics as they choose.
Malcolm Harrison, chief executive of the CCA, told The Pharmaceutical Journal on 12 September 2019 that he was not confident that there were enough existing pharmacists or others in training to meet the predicted demand.
“We believe that there is already a shortage of registered pharmacists to meet the current needs of all pharmacy settings across the health system,” he said.
“A decline in applicant numbers to schools of pharmacy and the creating of new roles to meet the NHS’s primary care needs places more strain on the profession.”
Harrison added that members of the CCA were “working with stakeholders across the sector and the NHS to ensure that our concerns are recognised and that plans are being drawn up to address both the immediate and future challenges we face”.
Claire Anderson, chair of the English Pharmacy Board at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, said there needed to be a properly funded strategy to support the recruitment, training and education needed to deliver NHS England’s NHS long-term plan, which includes the development of PCNs.
She added: “We can’t simply pull future pharmacists from one bit of the system to another. This will need an integrated approach to pharmacy, across the whole system, supported by a national strategy and better workforce data.”
Helga Mangion, policy manager at the National Pharmacy Association, said having an increasing number of pharmacists working in PCNs “will inevitably impact on community pharmacy recruitment and retention”.
“This plan must be carefully managed so that the new primary care workforce genuinely adds to capacity,” she explained, adding that collaboration across “multiple healthcare settings may allow for this to happen effectively, while ensuring the continuity of innovative pharmacy service delivery”.
In July 2019, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) told Health Education England that it was expected to train 500 new clinical pharmacists by the end of 2019/2020 to work in general practice.
The DHSC said at the time that the target would provide support for “the wider expansion and transformation of primary care, including the objective for every primary care network to have a dedicated clinical pharmacist”.