RPS warns four out of five community pharmacy clinical lead roles could disappear when NHS funding ends

Exclusive: Two years after 42 community pharmacy clinical lead posts across integrated care systems were announced, funding for the roles is due to end in April 2024.
James Davies, director for England at the RPS

More than 80% of community pharmacy clinical lead roles are at risk of disappearing from integrated care systems (ICSs) when funding for the posts ends in April 2024, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) has warned.

In a letter sent to NHS to regional directors and regional chief pharmacists in February 2022, NHS England said that it would fund the establishment of 42 community pharmacy clinical lead posts, one in each ICS, “to support scaling and embedding of new clinical services” within the sector.

ICSs were able to recruit into these positions from April 2022, with the salaries funded by the pharmacy integration fund for two years.

After this time, NHS England said that ICSs would be expected “to make their own permanent arrangements to continue the integration and expansion of community pharmacy clinical services”.

Two years on, with the funding coming to an end, ‘A vision for pharmacy professional practice in England: One year on’, published by the RPS on 13 February 2024, warns that integrated care boards (ICBs) and ICSs are facing “incredible demand pressures against funding shortages” that put community pharmacy clinical lead roles “at risk of disappearing”.

“As part of the steps to improve pharmacy integration, community pharmacy clinical leads were announced to support the embedding of new services,” the report said.

“However, many of these roles look set to disappear when funding ends in April 2024, presenting concerns about the future leadership and ability to deliver the ‘community pharmacy pathfinder’ programme.”

James Davies, director for England at the RPS, told The Pharmaceutical Journal that although all 42 ICSs have taken on community pharmacy clinical leads since 2022, many were employed on fixed-term contracts or secondments, which meant they faced losing their jobs when the NHS England funding ended.

Davies added that the Society was only aware of 8 community pharmacy clinical leads (19%) who had been employed by ICBs on permanent contracts. This means that the remaining 34 roles are potentially at risk.

He added that the RPS holds a monthly ICS ‘Pharmacy Leads Forum’ to support community pharmacy clinical leads and is helping those in post to create business cases to present to their ICSs to explain the importance of their roles.  

“It’s vital that we have local pharmacy leaders who can work across the system supporting the development and deployment of new clinical services in community pharmacy to help deliver the best for patients,” Davies said.

“Community pharmacy clinical leads provide an interface between community pharmacy and the rest of primary care, so, without them, pharmacy’s voice around the table will be diminished.”

Plans for ICSs to recruit community pharmacy clinical leads to lead local implementation of community pharmacy clinical services were first shared by NHS England in October 2021.

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, February 2024, Vol 312, No 7982;312(7982)::DOI:10.1211/PJ.2024.1.228314

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