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CPE calls for ARRS to end as new workforce plan looms

Community Pharmacy England (CPE) chief executive Janet Morrison has again pleaded with the government to end pharmacist recruitment into the additional roles reimbursement scheme (ARRS).

Ms Morrison’s call, in a statement released on Friday (June 23), comes as anticipation builds for the release of the NHS workforce plan. The long-awaited plan is expected to be published this week, the BBC reported yesterday (June 25).

The chief executive of CPE, formerly known as the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC), pointed to “urgent…workforce issues”, which she said must be rectified in order to “avoid catastrophe”.

“The upcoming NHS workforce plan must start to address this issue and come alongside an end to the recruitment of pharmacists into the ARRS scheme,” she continued.

Ms Morrison was responding to a General Medical Council (GMC) report on the workforce crisis faced by UK doctors, also released on Friday. The GMC’s report into workplace experiences surveyed over 4,000 doctors and found that a “vicious cycle” of overwork and unhappiness is leading NHS doctors to want to quit.

Read more: ARRS recruitment must ‘immediately halt’ now target reached, warns CCA


The report was “another clear signal” of the NHS workforce in “crisis”, said Ms Morrison, who pointed out that these issues are “not limited to general practice”. 

“Pharmacy teams are overstretched, feeling immense pressures, and dealing with significantly increased workloads,” she said, echoing the GMC report’s findings, which related only to doctors.

Ms Morrison claimed that as people “struggle” to access GPs, they turn instead to pharmacies in a “knock-on effect”.

And she said that it was “impossible” for pharmacy owners to “make ends meet”, pointing to “workforce issues” as the reason behind the rise in labour costs.


Repeated calls


It is not the first time that Ms Morrison has criticised ARRS recruitment, however.

In February, she said that the scheme was “damaging” and “short-sighted”. “The NHS tactic of poaching community pharmacy staff to work in general practices is absurd,” she said at the time.

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


However, by contrast, Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) director Paul Day said that it was the obligation of pharmacy owners to improve conditions for staff.

In October, Ms Morrison told delegates at a Sigma conference in Heathrow that the government must “realise” that it needs to stop recruiting ‘clinical’ pharmacists into primary care networks (PCNs) and GP practices.


ARRS about face?


Last month, C+D reported that NHS England (NHSE) will “review and evaluate” the future of ARRS, which would apply from 2024/25 onwards when the current five-year GP contract that introduced PCNs ends.

Meanwhile, the Company Chemists’ Association (CCA) last month (May 22) warned that ARRS recruitment must “immediately halt” now that the government has hired 26,000 additional staff into primary care.

Read more: NHSE reveals it will ‘review’ future of ARRS PCN recruitment


And in October, the Association of Independent Multiple pharmacies CEO Leyla Hannbeck cautioned that an uplift in the maximum reimbursement rates for so-called ‘clinical’ pharmacists would result in a “lack of level playing field for community pharmacies”.

In April, an independent government report known as the Hewitt Review found that using ARRS to recruit pharmacists into PCNs was worsening a shortage of pharmacists.

Catch up with C+D’s sixth Big Debate, which asked: Is there a shortage of community pharmacists?

Last year, pharmacists were added to the government’s shortage occupation list – a decision that was welcomed by some employers but questioned by some locums and the PDA.

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