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PDA fires back after CCA accuses union of 'dismissing' workforce pressures

The Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) has hit back after the Company Chemists’ Association (CCA) accused the union of dismissing contractors’ workforce challenges.

To “dismiss” these challenges is “disingenuous and a disservice to the pharmacists and pharmacy staff that who have worked tirelessly over the COVID-19 pandemic”, the CCA said.

This prompted the PDA to claim that it had been “challenged by the CCA to a public debate” in a statement released yesterday afternoon (March 16). “The PDA has always engaged constructively, but others should listen and not simply seek to divert the debate,” it stressed.

 

Read more: APPG chair: Commissioning is ‘at fault’ for pharmacy’s funding issues

 

It comes after the CCA  said it was “disappointed” that the PDA “continues to claim” that workforce challenges affecting community pharmacy “are an isolated problem affecting CCA companies only or are even totally non-existent” in a statement published on Tuesday (March 15).

Referring to independent contractors’ testimonies shared at an all-party pharmacy group (APPG) event held last month (see box, below) – during which they spoke of the recruitment and retention challenges they had faced – the CCA said the contractors’ accounts are “just a microcosm of what is happening nationally and across the entire health and social care system”.

 

 

Who attended the APPG event and what did contractors argue?

Representatives from the PDA and the CCA attended an APPG event last month on recruitment, retention, and professional development of the pharmacy workforce.

They were joined by Paul Mason, superintendent pharmacist at Lo’s Pharmacy – representing the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies – and Anil Sharma, an independent contractor and representative for the east of England region at the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee.

Following the APPG event, Mr Sharma told the CCA that it had become “impossible to recruit across city and rural areas” as a result of “lack of career opportunities in community pharmacy because of the sector’s flat-funding” and the growing recruitment of community pharmacists into primary care networks (PCNs), the CCA reported.

“We’ve not struggled like this in all my sixteen years of trading. Ultimately, we feel unsupported and underinvested by the government especially when pharmacists have done so much over the pandemic,” Mr Sharma said.

“I would invite anyone who believes that the workforce crisis does not exist… to come and see what’s happening on the ground,” he added.

PDA: “Far from dismissing” highlighted challenges

 

PDA chairman Mark Koziol said the union is “far from dismissing the contributions” of contractors speaking at the APPG event. Rather, these accounts reinforce “what thousands of PDA members are already telling us”, he said.

“It was heartbreaking to hear [Anil] Sharma report at the APPG how, unable to engage a locum, he recently missed a close family member’s funeral, and that he is discouraging his own children from joining the sector,” Mr Koziol added.

However, the PDA argued the APPG event “was clearly designed to try and persuade parliamentarians that there was a pharmacist shortage” and pointed out how the CCA does not represent the “kind of business” of either of the contractors speaking at the event.

 

Read more: 27% of pharmacists working for CCA members want to leave, PDA stats reveal

 

CCA member companies “are mainly large retailers or wholesalers”, that “operate in a very different place and style to small pharmacy businesses”, it argued.

While PDA members “typically have far more in common with small pharmacist-owned independent pharmacy businesses”, the union said, “through the scale of their pharmacy ownership, CCA members will inevitably have an impact on the wider conditions and reputation of community pharmacy”.

 

CCA: “We strongly urge” PDA to “stand united on workforce shortage issues”

  

The CCA also called on the PDA to join them and “stand united on the workforce shortage issues affecting pharmacies up and down the country”, to enable the sector to work together with commissioners to secure “better workforce planning and concerted investment into a sector which so desperately needs it”.

 

The PDA said it is “already on record as wanting to support pharmacy businesses to secure more funding, particularly in England”, but it agreed that it is essential to “work together to deal with the causes of these problems”.

 

“We must engage the government to address the damage that has been done by the reduction in the global sum,” the union added.

 

 

Read more: Why did the Home Office add pharmacists to the shortage occupation list?

 

“It is time that the contractual negotiations with the government received direct input from the representatives of pharmacists at the coal face,” the PDA said.

In a report published last month, the CCA claimed there had been a shortfall of 3,000 community pharmacists in England over a five-year period due to a “tug of war” between different parts of the healthcare sector.

Meanwhile, a PDA survey – the results of which were released earlier this month – revealed that more than a quarter (27%) of pharmacists working for CCA members wanted to leave the sector.

Last year, pharmacists were added to the government’s shortage occupation list. This decision was welcomed by AIMp, which at the time told C+D that “community pharmacy continues to lose experienced pharmacists to PCN-related activity”.

However, some locum pharmacists and the PDA have questioned whether pharmacists should be on the shortage occupation list.

 

Catch up with C+D’s Big Debate, which asked: Is there a shortage of community pharmacists?

 

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