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Government rejects calls for ‘specific pharmacy workforce plan’

The government has rejected a parliamentary committee’s recommendation for a workforce plan specifically for the pharmacy sector, it has revealed.

In a report published in July, the House of Commons Health and Social Care Committee (HSCC) recommended that the government develop “an integrated and funded workforce plan for pharmacy” to be laid before parliament “within 12 months”.

It said that the pharmacy workforce plan “must ensure that all pharmacists have adequate access to supervision, training and protected learning time, along with clear structures for professional career development into advanced and consultant-level practice”.

The plan for pharmacy put forward by the committee also included provisions for newly qualified pharmacists, noting that by 2027 all graduates will be independent prescribers.

Read more: MPs push government for funded pharmacy workforce plan

All graduates must be “given protected learning time, adequate supervision and career development opportunities”, it said.

It added that the plan would allow the government to “better utilise the pharmacy workforce” and “optimise workloads across primary care”, reducing pressure on general practice and hospitals.

But in a formal response published last week (April 21), the government said that it does “not agree with this recommendation for a specific pharmacy workforce plan”.

It added that it is “working across the system to ensure that the future role of the pharmacy workforce is considered as part of the long-term workforce plan,” which will be published “later this year”.  

 

Contract already set out “clear vision”

 

The government said that it does agree with the committee’s ambition to “better utilise the pharmacy workforce”.

However, it added that it set out a “clear vision” in the community pharmacy five-year deal for how pharmacy teams would “become more integrated into the NHS” to improve patient experience and become the “first port of call for minor illness”.

It said that the government and NHS England (NHSE) “remain committed to maximising the use of the skills of the whole pharmacy team in realising the vision set out in the five-year deal”.

Read more: NHS workforce plan must include community pharmacy, sector urges

“We are committed to supporting community pharmacy professionals’ career development, working with employers and partners to deliver fulfilling roles across all sectors, for new and existing registrants,” it added.

The government said that it is working on “pathways for pharmacists to demonstrate post- registration capabilities, including advanced and consultant level practice”.

This will enable them to “undertake an HEE-approved advanced clinical practice course or demonstrate equivalence through a supported portfolio route”, it added.

 

“Shared workforce models”

 

Meanwhile, the government response also revealed that NHSE is “currently developing guidance on the introduction of shared workforce models” between primary care networks (PCNs) and “other pharmacist employers”.

This aims to ease “short-term local supply issues and [aid] longer-term retention”, it said.

However, detail remained scant on the plans.

Read more: Cross-sector community and GP pharmacist training pilot launched

And the government said that NHSE is also “establishing a pilot to incorporate independent prescribing for patients in primary care”.

This will “identify the optimal process, governance, safe practice, funding and IT required to enable independent prescribing in community pharmacy”, it added.

The pilot will also “inform the professional development needs of community pharmacy”, with “wider workforce strategy for pharmacy professionals” to begin “later this year”, it said.

Pharmacy leaders have also called for the upcoming NHS workforce plan – expected this month - to cover the pharmacy sector in full, including community colleagues.

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