Primary care pharmacist jobs could be at risk following changes to ARRS funding

Under new arrangements for the Additional Roles Reimbursement Scheme, primary care networks will not be able to redistribute unspent funds between each other, which have previously been used for recruitment to address staff shortages.
healthcare professional and patient sat in consultation room

Pharmacists working for primary care networks (PCNs) could face redundancies following changes to the Additional Roles Reimbursement Scheme (ARRS) in 2024/2025, it has been warned.

Under the ARRS scheme, which was initially announced in January 2019 as part of the five-year GP contract, PCNs are able to claim reimbursement for the salaries of 17 roles, including pharmacists and pharmacy technicians, as well as physiotherapists, paramedics and podiatrists.

Until this year, the network contract directed enhanced service (DES) allowed integrated care boards (ICBs) to redistribute unspent ARRS funds between PCNs.

The scheme was initially planned to run for five years until 2023/2024, but arrangements for the GP contract in 2024/2025, published in February 2024, set out that it would also run for the current financial year.

The arrangements state that “the mechanism which allows commissioners to redistribute unclaimed funding from the Additional Roles Reimbursement Sum between PCNs will be removed from the Network Contract DES.

“We continue to encourage PCNs to recruit up to their individual entitlements.”

Zoe Norris, chief executive medical director at Humberside Local Medical Committees, told The Pharmaceutical Journal that the inability to access any ARRS underspend means that PCNs that have used the excess funding for recruitment to address workforce challenges will no longer be able to do so.

“PCNs potentially face the issue of staff redundancy across their ARRS roles if they are unable to reach an agreement or be supported by their place or ICB teams,” said Norris

“This inevitably is disruptive, unfair to staff, and reducing the workforce to meet patient demand in an already strained system, and has the potential to destabilise already struggling PCNs.

“I think it’s likely a number of PCNs across England will find themselves in the same situation,” she added.

Danny Bartlett, lead pharmacist at Horsham Central PCN, said that “closing the door” on being able to apply for unclaimed funding was “disappointing”.

“So if a larger PCN uses all of their ARRS funding and a smaller PCN doesn’t use all of theirs, and that goes to the ICB, then it closes the door for us [larger PCNs],” Bartlett explained.

Commenting on the possible redundancies, Graham Stretch, president of the Primary Care Pharmacy Association, said: “My recollection of those people who did manage to access these funds [redistributed ARRS funding], was that they had to jump through a lot of hoops to get them, and quite rightfully so.

“It’s my view that nobody should realistically have imagined that money would reoccur … and the non-recurring aspect should have meant that people didn’t use it for workforce, but if they had, that is a bit unfortunate,” he added.

In May 2024, The Pharmaceutical Journal reported that ARRS funding will further expand to designated prescribing practitioners, clinical pharmacist designated supervisors, pharmacy technician educational supervisors and pharmacy technician apprentice roles.

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, May 2024, Vol 312, No 7985;312(7985)::DOI:10.1211/PJ.2024.1.316097

    Please leave a comment 

    You may also be interested in