A total of 14 pharmacy leadership bodies have written to the government to express concern over what they describe as a “lack of engagement” with the sector over the NHS long-term workforce plan.
Representatives of all the major pharmacy representative bodies — including the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS), the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) and the Guild of Healthcare Pharmacists (GHP) — wrote to pharmacy minister Will Quince asking him to confirm that the proposed workforce plan will cover “the entirety of the pharmacy workforce”, including community pharmacy.
The House of Commons Health and Social Care Select Committee, under its then chair Jeremy Hunt, called for a pan-NHS workforce plan in a report published in July 2022.
In November 2022, Hunt, in his new role as Chancellor of the Exchequer, announced during his Autumn Statement that such a workforce plan would be published, and in a written parliamentary answer, published on 8 December 2022, Quince confirmed that the workforce plan would include pharmacy.
In the letter to Quince, dated 21 December 2022, pharmacy leaders said: “While you noted in a recent written answer that the pharmacy workforce will be ‘considered in the development of the plan’, we would welcome your reassurance that the plan will cover the entirety of the pharmacy workforce across the health service, including in community pharmacy.”
The letter stated that the Health and Social Care Committee workforce report, published in July 2022, included detail on how to optimise the pharmacy workload across all sectors.
“The Committee noted that this optimisation will not be possible without an integrated and funded workforce plan for pharmacy,” the letter said. “It called for this plan to ensure adequate access to education supervision, training, and protected learning time, along with clear structures for professional development.”
The letter from pharmacy leaders also called for plans for how current pharmacists can be supported to become independent prescribers (IPs), and for how the skills of IPs can be best used to be included in the forthcoming workforce plan.
Commenting on the letter, Thorrun Govind, chair of the RPS’s English Pharmacy Board, said: “Pharmacists are increasingly working across care settings, and as such the whole of the pharmacy workforce must be included in the government’s upcoming long-term workforce plan and supported by investment in education and training,” said Thorrun Govind, chair of the RPS’s English Pharmacy Board.
Janet Morrison, chief executive of the PSNC, said it was “crucial that the community pharmacy sector is included in all future NHS workforce strategies”.
“We have been clear that the sector is facing a workforce crisis and that the impacts of this are already severely affecting pharmacies,” she added.
Nathan Burley, president of the GHP, said that “the pharmacy workforce is repeatedly held up as one of the key solutions to NHS pressures”.
“Ease of access to community pharmacy settings, comprehensive medication reviews in primary care, and advanced roles in clinical practice across all areas are just a handful of examples where we shine,” he said.
“Crucially — where is the government’s plan for pharmacy stakeholder engagement when it comes to getting more staff on the ground to support this, their training, retention and, above all, fair remuneration?”