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MPs push government for funded pharmacy workforce plan

An “integrated and funded” plan for the pharmacy workforce should be developed and laid before parliament within the next year, a group of MPs has recommended.

The Health and Social Care Committee called for the government to produce a fleshed-out strategy for the pharmacy workforce as part of a raft of suggestions to tackle “the greatest workforce crisis in [the NHS and social care sector’s] history”. 

The pharmacy workforce can be utilised better, which would “optimise workloads” across primary care as well as reduce pressure on other parts of the health system, it wrote in a report published this morning (July 25).

Read more: Pharmacist workforce issues drive employment solutions, says NHSE&I boss

The workforce plan should therefore make sure that all pharmacists are able to access the right training, with “clear structures for professional career development” built in.

The government has “shown a marked reluctance to act decisively” in the face of NHS staffing shortages, the committee wrote.

“It is time to stop photographing the problem and deal with it,” it stressed.

Appointed by the House of Commons and chaired by former health secretary Jeremy Hunt, the Health and Social Care Committee examines the Department of Health and Social Care’s (DH) expenditure, administration, and policy.

 

Independent prescribing impact on workforce

 

The pharmacy workforce plan should take into consideration that all newly qualified pharmacists will be independent prescribers by 2027, the committee wrote.

Read more: Boots injects up to £7k per pharmacist on independent prescribing training

These pharmacists should be given protected learning time, the right amount of supervision and opportunities to develop their careers, it said.

Anecdotal evidence was that independent prescribing pharmacists “currently lack opportunities” to use their skills in community pharmacy, which can sometimes lead to these pharmacists leaving the sector in favour of a role that “allows them to use their enhanced skills”, according to the report.

 

RPS: Low job satisfaction behind dwindling workforce

 

The committee referred to conversations it has had with Ravi Sharma, director for England at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, who said the growing the number of pharmacist independent prescribers could decrease the burden on the NHS and “optimise the workload that healthcare staff are able to experience”.

Read more: Boost retention by giving pharmacists protected learning time, RPS tells MPs

Mr Sharma – who gave evidence on pharmacy workforce issues to the Health and Social Care Select Committee in May – said that today's report "underlines the urgent need" for a "comprehensive" health and social care workforce plan.

“Pharmacy teams will play a key role in the NHS recovery, but with continued pressures on staff we need support for the workforce so they can keep looking after patients," he said, urging the government to pay heed to the report's recommendations.

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