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England CPhO: NHS ‘doing all we can’ to address pharmacy workforce pressures

NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I) is working to “mitigate” pharmacy workforce issues at a national level, England's chief pharmaceutical officer David Webb has said.

Mr Webb hears the pharmacy sector’s messages on these issues, “from secondary care through to community pharmacy”, he said during his keynote address at the Clinical Pharmacy Congress in London today (May 13).

“While the number of registered pharmacists is growing each year, the availability of pharmacists [varies] significantly across the country and across employers,” he added.

He reassured delegates that NHSE&I is “doing all we can nationally to mitigate these problems”.

But he added that employers and system leaders must work together to “create recruitment and retention solutions and make inter-sector rivalries a thing of the past”.

“At a national level, NHSE&I is working with integrated care systems (ICSs), employers and Health Education England on workforce planning for the whole pharmacy workforce and the wider NHS workforce and applying this across each of the 42 ICSs in England,” he added.

However, he said that employers must also ensure they are “training enough pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and support staff teams”.

Mr Webb presented this slide at the Clinical Pharmacy Congress, showing what NHSE&I is doing in response to the workforce challenges experienced by the sector 

 

New developments and priorities

 

During his address, Mr Webb also referred to many changes – including the development of hub-and-spoke models and ICSs becoming statutory bodies from July 1 – that are going to have an impact on the profession.

But the introduction of new standards for the initial education and training of pharmacists – which mean that every pharmacist will be annotated as independent prescriber on registration from September 2026 – represent the “most fundamental change for our profession in decades”, he said.

“Developing our professional practice to incorporate this is a key priority for me and for my team,” he added.

“Because of this exciting future, we will need strong professional leadership to guide, support and enable transformation change,” Mr Webb continued.

He went on to announce that the four chief pharmaceutical officers (CPhOs) are establishing a “commission” to “produce a briefing for the purpose and functions for professional leadership in pharmacy for the future”.

This will ensure “we have the right support in place for the profession, for patients, [and] for the NHS to work with the regulator and government”.

“Not least, we will need this leadership to make sure the move to independent prescribing is safe and effective and that everything that will make it so is in place,” Mr Webb added.

Mr Webb was appointed CPhO for England on January 7, after his predecessor Keith Ridge decided to retire from the role after 16 years in the post.  

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