The recruitment of thousands of pharmacists in primary care networks (PCNs) is “causing some challenges” for the workforce, the chief pharmaceutical officer for England has admitted.
Speaking at the Clinical Pharmacy Congress on 24 September 2021, Keith Ridge said PCNs have recruited “about 3,000” pharmacists and aim to recruit “about 7,000 over the next few years”.
PCNs have been able to claim funding from NHS England to hire pharmacists as part of their national contract since July 2019. The funding initially totalled £37,810 per pharmacist but increased to £55,670 from April 2020.
Ridge said the addition of pharmacists to PCNs is “having an enormous impact on general practice”.
“But, of course, it is causing some challenges as well, to some extent, in terms of the workforce,” he said.
Ridge’s comments follow warnings from leaders in the community pharmacy sector in 2019 that the “osmotic draw” of pharmacists into PCNs would lead to a shortage of community pharmacists.
Pharmacists were included in the government’s shortage occupation list in March 2021, owing to evidence of “a national shortage in this occupation due to a decline in the number of pharmacy graduates and increasing demand for their services”.
A recent survey of employers found that nearly one in ten (9%) full-time equivalent (FTE) community pharmacist positions were vacant as of July 2020.
To counteract the workforce challenges, Ridge said “a systemwide approach to workforce deployment is going to be critical in the years ahead”, adding that this includes working “in a collaborative way”.
“You can’t have two silos of primary care working against each other,” he said.
Ridge highlighted the parallels between the ‘Community pharmacy contractual framework‘ and the PCN contract, which are designed to facilitate collaboration.
This included incentivising PCNs to increase the number of referrals to community pharmacies through the community pharmacist consultation service (CPCS) “by no later than 31 March 2022”. PCNs could receive up to £12.6m for meeting this target.
In 2022/2023, PCNs could be paid up to £6.1m for referring 34 patients per 1,000 registered patients to pharmacies through the CPCS that year.
Pharmacies and PCNs will also be expected to work together as part of the hypertension case-finding service, with patients referred to general practice from pharmacies where necessary.
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