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Full-time PCN pharmacist and pharmacy technician numbers hit 4.5k

The number of full-time equivalent (FTE) pharmacists and pharmacy technicians working for a primary care network (PCN) stood at 4,515 as of the end of September, NHS data has revealed.

There were 3,422 FTE PCN pharmacists at that time, experimental data on the PCN workforce released by NHS Digital yesterday (October 27) revealed. This is up 4% on the 3,284 FTE PCN pharmacists reported as of June 2022.

The number of PCN pharmacy technicians also rose by 13% in this period, with 1,048 recorded compared with the 927 reported in June.

Read more: ‘Unfair advantage’: PCNs see increase in reimbursable pay for pharmacists

However, NHS Digital cautioned against comparing the figures between different periods, because "a greater proportion of active PCNs" are "beginning to engage in sharing their workforce data".

"The level of detail in the information that we can collect about each individual varies, as there are different ways that individuals can be contracted to work for their PCN", it added.

However, "we now believe data quality is sufficient to warrant monthly collections and publications", it noted. NHS Digital plans to start publishing this information from January 2023, it said.

FTE pharmacists are "the most common job role within the PCN workforce", with 3,422 of these roles recorded,  NHS Digital revealed.

The PCN contract is a Directed Enhanced Service and aims to increase the primary care workforce by 26,000 by March 2024.


FTE pharmacist and pharmacy technician numbers by region


The midlands was the region with the highest number of recorded FTE pharmacists by the end of September, at 794, according to the data. The area also boasted 226 FTE pharmacy technicians.

This was followed by London, with 643 recorded FTE pharmacists, and the north east and Yorkshire, with 506 FTE pharmacists.

However, PCNs in London only reported employing 70 FTE pharmacy technicians, compared to the 191 recorded in the north east and Yorkshire.

Read more: PSNC CEO: Government must stop recruiting ‘clinical’ pharmacists into PCNs

While the south west had the lowest number of recorded FTE pharmacists, at 333, it reported the third highest number of FTE pharmacy technicians with 187.

Most staff employed by PCNs are funded through the additional roles reimbursement scheme (ARRS). Last year, the scheme was extended to include PCN pharmacy technicians.


Community pharmacy workforce challenges


Earlier this month, the annual maximum reimbursable amount for PCN ‘clinical’ pharmacists and pharmacy technicians increased to match the agreed uplift to Agenda for Change pay scales.

However, pharmacy bodies warned C+D at the time that ARRS gives PCNs an unfair advantage over the community pharmacy sector.

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

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

Pharmacists were also 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.

Meanwhile, earlier this month, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee CEO, Janet Morrison, warned delegates at a Sigma conference that the financially incentivised recruitment of pharmacists into PCN roles is "absolutely shooting community pharmacy in the foot".

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