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DH ‘monitoring’ impact of PCN pharmacist recruitment on community pharmacy

The Department of Health and Social Care (DH) will “continue to monitor the recruitment of new staff into primary care networks (PCNs)” and the impact this could have on community pharmacy, it has told C+D. 

More than 18,200 people were working for PCNs as of March this year, the DH revealed last week (May 19) – which means the government is on track to meet its target of recruiting 26,000 more primary care staff by March 2024.

Staff employed by GP practices include “clinical pharmacists…[who] are fully qualified to deal with a range of minor illnesses, providing advice and treatment”, the DH said.

Some community pharmacy employers have claimed there is a shortage of pharmacists in the sector, largely down to losing them to “PCN-related activity”.

However, the DH pointed out that the number of pharmacists and pharmacy technicians on the General Pharmaceutical Council’s (GPhC) register “has been increasing every year”.

Nevertheless, the DH “continues to monitor the recruitment of new staff” into PCNs, a spokesperson told C+D last week (May 20).


Working with the sector


The DH also continues to assess the “impact” of this “on community pharmacy by working closely with the sector”, they said.

But ultimately, the DH believes community pharmacy employers to be responsible for the recruitment and retention of their staff.

Under the five-year Community Pharmacy Contractual Framework the DH “committed more than £2.5 billion a year to support community pharmacies and ensure they carry on providing high-quality care to patients”, the spokesperson added.


Read more: Underappreciated and lonely: the other side of the PCN pharmacist role


Background to workforce challenges


Pharmacists were added to the government’s shortage occupation list in March last year.

However, according to Health Education England’s Community Pharmacy Workforce Survey published earlier this year, the number of pharmacists working in community pharmacy grew by 4,122 between 2017 and 2021.

The GPhC register also shows that, over the same period, the number of registered pharmacists increased by 6,848.


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


Earlier this month, England’s chief pharmaceutical officer David Webb told delegates at the Clinical Pharmacy Congress in London that NHS England and NHS Improvement is “doing all we can nationally to mitigate” pharmacy workforce pressures.


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


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