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‘A sad day for community pharmacy’: Sector reacts to NHSE workforce plan

A new NHS long term workforce plan has been welcomed by some, while others called it a “sad day for community pharmacy”.

NHS England’s (NHSE’s) long term workforce plan, released today (June 30), has polarised leading figures in pharmacy.

The major announcement from the plan is that there will be a 29% increase in pharmacist training places by 2028/29 - boosting the number to 4,307 by 2028, up from the 3,339 training places available for trainee pharmacists in 2022. 

With demand for pharmacy services estimated to need as many as 4,359–5,174 training places per year by 2032/33, the document plans to increase the number of places available to 4,970 by 2031.

Read more: NHSE announces 29% increase in pharmacist training places by 2028/29

In a letter announcing the plan today, chief pharmaceutical officer (CPhO) for NHSE David Webb described the plan as “great news for all of us - pharmacy professionals, patients, local communities and the NHS”.

Mr Webb said that the plan shows how a pharmacy career will be made “more attractive” by including retention measures and “embedding the right culture for all employees”.

 

“Kick in the teeth”

 

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) in England “welcomed” the release of the workforce plan.

Newly elected RPS England chair Tase Oputu said that the plan was “encouraging” in its commitment to pharmacy education and training, adding that “the key to its success” will be in its implementation.

“We all want to see improved support for our workforce so we can keep looking after patients. How this plan is put into practice, backed by long-term funding, will be key to its success,” she said.

Read more: Government rejects calls for ‘specific pharmacy workforce plan’

But Dr Leyla Hannbeck, CEO of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp), was less effusive about NHSE’s plans.

She said that the workforce plan “will only deepen” the workforce crisis facing community pharmacy. 

Read more: CPE calls for ARRS to end as new workforce plan looms

The plan displays “a deep-seated prejudice to the network model” and AIMp’s hopes that it would recognise the “potential” and the “challenges” of the sector were dashed, she added.

And Dr Hannbeck described the workforce plan’s focus on the use of automation as a “dream world”.

“This is a sad day for community pharmacy”, she said, adding that the plan “is another kick in the teeth for our sector”.

 

“Proactive approach”

 

Alastair Buxton, director of NHS Services at Community Pharmacy England (CPE), said that the document presented a “proactive approach to workforce planning”. 

While the plan made mention of the hub and spoke model as a way to free up pharmacist time, Mr Buxton noted that this will require legislative changes, as well as “significant investment” to make the model “financially viable” for pharmacy owners.

He said that the workforce plan must deliver “affordable and available pharmacists and other staff” and warned that NHSE should not “repeat previous mistakes”.

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

In a joint statement, chief executive of the Company Chemists’ Association (CCA) Malcolm Harrison and chief executive of the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) Mark Lyonette said that they were “pleased” to see the inclusion of community pharmacy in the plan, as recognition of the “importance” of the sector.

They called for plans to upskill pharmacists to become independent prescribers to “gather pace” and for the role of independent prescribers to be “clearer”.

And they added that pharmacy technicians should be allowed to work under a patient group direction (PGD).

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