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Time for a fully-funded pharmacy workforce plan: The CCA's take on 2022

Company Chemists' Association (CCA) chief executive Malcolm Harrison provides his reflections on 2022 and his hopes for 2023 in the fourth of our C+Dmas series

What a year 2022 has been. The pharmacy sector has continued to face many challenges this year, but it goes without saying that there have also been many highlights.

Frontline pharmacy teams continued to play a key role in the nation’s fight against COVID-19. In April, it was an honour to join over thirty CCA frontline pharmacists at St James’ Palace to meet the then Prince Charles who hosted a reception to thank community pharmacy for its heroic efforts over COVID-19.

Read more: Prince Charles praises pharmacy teams' ‘dedication’ at St James’s Palace reception

Workforce challenges are an ongoing concern. In late 2021 and early 2022, we felt it was necessary to provide robust evidence of the growing workforce crisis in community pharmacy and hold the NHS to account.

Through our analysis of General Pharmaceutical Council and Health Education England data we built the most complete picture to date of current numbers of community pharmacists in England, revealing a shortfall of more than 3,000 pharmacists.

Despite an initial reluctance to accept these findings, we were proud to work with fellow pharmacy bodies to highlight our shared concerns to the Health and Social Care Committee – which later recommended that the government issue a fully-funded pharmacy workforce plan.

We are delighted that everyone is now focused on finding solutions to the workforce crisis that unfortunately continues to deepen.

We continued to shine a light on the great value of pharmacy teams when the then pharmacy minister Will Quince MP visited a CCA pharmacy in October. Mr Quince received his flu jab and had his blood pressure checked.

The minister was able to see first-hand much of what the community pharmacy sector has to offer to patients and the NHS.

This was also an opportunity to reiterate the worrying impact that primary care network recruitment was having on community pharmacies.

Read more: Will Quince gets flu jab and blood pressure check at Boots pharmacy

This year, we have also highlighted that the current funding model in England is broken. In June, the CCA hosted a parliamentary roundtable which brought together senior civil servants, parliamentarians and fellow pharmacy body representatives.

Attendees discussed and agreed on the need for a fundamental rewiring of the funding model. 

Funding cuts have made community pharmacy unviable and unfortunately some pharmacies have had to permanently shut their doors.

It is evident that the sector needs both an immediate uplift and a fundamental review and rethink of the future funding framework.

As the new year quickly approaches, we hope to see community pharmacy reach its full potential in 2023.

We will continue to advocate for a review of the current contractual framework, a fully-funded ‘Pharmacy First’ model in England, and for community pharmacy to be the natural home for vaccinations, along with other new models of care that will enhance the sector as a career of choice for pharmacy professionals across England, Scotland and Wales.

Community pharmacy can reach its full potential, but the NHS must put patients back in control and urgently undertake a holistic review of primary care.

This will ensure resources are directed where they deliver the most benefit to patients.

Pharmacy teams continue to be outstanding pillars in the community and I am proud of all the hard work the sector has put in this year.

I look forward to positive changes in the sector to ensure the best outcome for patients in 2023 and the years to follow.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all my community pharmacy colleagues.

Read more: Pharmacy leaders issue urgent funding plea as pharmacies 'struggling to survive'

Malcolm Harrison is chief executive of the CCA


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