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‘Short-sighted at best’: PSNC blasts recruitment of 4k PCN pharmacists

Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) CEO Janet Morrison has lambasted the continuous recruitment of pharmacists into PCNs as “damaging” and “at best short-sighted”.

According to primary care network (PCN) workforce data published by NHS Digital last week (January 26), some 3,880 full-time equivalent (FTE) pharmacists were working in this setting as of December 2022.

This is up from the 3,422 FTE PCN pharmacists recorded in September, although NHS Digital cautioned against comparing figures from different periods as "a greater proportion of active PCNs" are now sharing their workforce data.

Meanwhile, the number of pharmacy technicians working in PCNs stood at 1,246 in December. The data also revealed that 330 advanced pharmacy practitioners had joined PCNs by that time, although NHS Digital did not start publishing data on these roles until March 2022.

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

Responding to the latest statistics, Ms Morrison told C+D that “the NHS tactic of poaching community pharmacy staff to work in general practices is absurd and having very damaging consequences for community pharmacies”.

Although she did acknowledge that general practices were under pressure – saying that pharmacies “understand and want to help relieve [this]” – Ms Morrison described PCN recruitment of pharmacy roles as ill-considered.

“Solving one workforce problem by worsening another is at best short-sighted,” she said.


Policy leading to temporary pharmacy closures


Most staff employed by PCNs are funded through the additional roles reimbursement scheme, which was last year extended to include PCN pharmacy technicians.

Ms Morrison claimed the scheme “has vastly increased the number of pharmacists being recruited into PCNs”, which she said has resulted in “spiralling locum costs up 80% in the past year”.

“The policy is exacerbating pharmacy workforce problems, which is leaving many pharmacies understaffed and forced to close their doors temporarily to patients,” she added.

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

Chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) Thorrun Govind told C+D that PCN pharmacists “have a vital role in supporting people with their medicines, ensuring value for money and better patient outcomes”.

She added that the government’s upcoming workforce plan must make “the most of pharmacist roles as part of the multidisciplinary team” and create “a future pipeline of pharmacists backed by investment in education and training”.

Pharmacy bodies – including PSNC and the RPS – last month co-signed a letter calling for “reassurance” that the long-term NHS workforce plan would “cover the entirety of the pharmacy workforce across the health service, including community pharmacy”.


Should community employers do more to keep staff?


However, Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) Union director Paul Day put the onus on employers to ensure staff retention.

“Community pharmacy employers need to look at the roles and workplace environments offered in that sector and ensure they improve them if they are to attract enough pharmacists to fill their vacancies,” he told C+D.

Read more: Number of GP pharmacists rockets: A ‘slap in the face’ or a warning to employers?

The PDA is “keen” to help employers achieve that, he said.

Mr Day also said it was “good for recruitment and retention into the profession that there is opportunity to develop a pharmacist’s career in various clinical settings”.   

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