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NHSE&I: Pharmacies could share pharmacists with PCNs to plug shortages

Having a “pool of pharmacists” working both in community and GP surgeries could help tackle some of the workforce issues community pharmacy is facing, an NHSE&I director has suggested.

Addressing the Association of Independent Multiple pharmacies (AIMp) conference yesterday (September 23), NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I) director for primary care strategy and NHS contracts Ed Waller said the national commissioner is “keen to understand” how workforce challenges are impacting community pharmacy.

AIMp CEO Leyla Hannbeck explained that the sector is “losing experienced pharmacists to primary care networks (PCNs) and to vaccination sites within PCNs, where the pay rate is much higher” than for other vaccination sites.

Addressing the “pay differential”, Mr Waller said: “We need to recognise that there is prescriber training attached to the roles in PCNs. I think pay is one factor, but I've also heard a number of other reasons cited for people wanting to move across to PCN pharmacist roles.”

Noting an example of “collaborative” working he witnessed before the pandemic, Mr Waller said a local community had created a “really sensible shared pool of pharmacists…so that people were working in both general practice and in pharmacies to bring more money into that pool of clinicians”.

This shared working model also “offered people potentially improved career opportunities in terms of training to prescribe as part of the PCN role [and] potentially offering better continuity to patients, because they are seeing the same clinicians in different places”, Mr Waller explained.

“I think there are opportunities for us as a sector to think about how we make some of those rotational models [work],” he added.

Mr Waller urged community pharmacists to “tell us what you're experiencing”, so NHSE&I can “get clear data that demonstrates what issues people are facing” and act accordingly.

In June this year, the Community Pharmacy Workforce Development Group (CPWDG) published a report that exposed a full-time equivalent pharmacist vacancy rate of 9% across England based on the findings of a survey it had carried out in July 2020.


GPhC’s role in promoting the profession


The CPWDG – which brings together representatives from the Company Chemists’ Association (CCA), AIMp, and the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) – launched a careers website on Wednesday (September 22), aiming to inform students, parents, and teachers about the positives of a career in community pharmacy.

When asked at the AIMp conference for the General Pharmaceutical Council’s (GPhC) support in promoting community pharmacy as a viable career option, chief executive Duncan Rudkin said: “We’re not a marketing branch for your profession.”

“One of the bits of information that people need when they're considering a career in pharmacy, is to understand the quality of the training, how that equips people as part of the healthcare workforce, and that it is a recognised, respected, high quality health profession,” Mr Rudkin added.

“We as the regulator do have a role in telling that story. I completely support you on that,” he told Dr Hannbeck.

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