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NHSE to ‘extend success’ of ARRS under workforce plans

NHS England (NHSE) has revealed plans to “extend the success” of its controversial additional roles reimbursement scheme (ARRS) that hires pharmacists and other staff into GP practices.

NHSE’s new long term workforce plan, published last week (June 30), set out plans to expand the ARRS - which recruits pharmacists into primary care networks (PCNs) in general practice.

The document said that the commissioner will “seek to extend the success” of the scheme, which has so far delivered an additional 29,000 multiprofessional roles in primary care.

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

It set out an ambition to increase the number of non-GP direct patient care staff by around 15,000 and primary care nurses by more than 5,000 by 2036/37.

This will “build extra capacity and free up available appointments”, it said.

“Carefully managed”

However, NHSE added that the “expansion would be carefully managed, taking into account additional training of pharmacists to ensure the growth in workforce is sustainable”.

It would also consider the “additional capacity required to staff roles across primary care”, it said.

The plan said that it comes as pharmacists and pharmacy technicians are “increasingly working within PCNs to provide enhanced clinical services alongside GPs and a wider multidisciplinary team”.

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

It comes as Community Pharmacy England (CPE) last month again pleaded with the government to end pharmacist recruitment into the ARRS.

And in May, NHSE said it would “review and evaluate” the future of ARRS from 2024/25 onwards when the current five-year GP contract that introduced PCNs ends.

Why not invest in community pharmacy instead?

Reacting to the publication of the plan last week, CEO of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp) Dr Leyla Hannbeck expressed disappointment that the ARRS will continue under the plan.

“The lack of a level playing field for community pharmacy created by the ARRS scheme contributed to a workforce crisis in our sector at a time when community pharmacies are being asked to do more”, she said.

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

She added that the “concept of extended multidisciplinary working across primary care smacks of a desire to see service delivery via extended channels, namely PCNs and primary care, with less reliance upon the community network”.

“Why not invest in community pharmacy instead, by providing adequate funding for the sector to invest in its workforce?” she asked.


Alastair Buxton, CPE director of NHS Services, added that NHSE “must not repeat previous mistakes”, such as the implementation of ARRS.

“The failure to plan properly for the impact of the ARRS scheme on community pharmacies has been disastrous for many pharmacy owners and we need assurance that pharmacy will not fall through the gaps,” he said.

Read more: PCNs: Golden opportunity or just a pain in the ARRS for community pharmacy?

And 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 “doubtful” about the continuing presence of ARRS in workforce planning.

“ARRS only makes sense if it is adding capacity to the primary care system, not stripping capacity from other community and secondary care settings,” they said.

However, they added that the plan “does at least recognise the need to ‘carefully manage’ the expansion of ARRS and consider the additional capacity required to staff roles across primary care”.

“We have consistently called for the impact on community pharmacies to be mitigated and we now look forward to further details,” they said.

Read more: Pharmacy closures 'exacerbated' by PCN recruitment, warns government review

Meanwhile, the NHS long term workforce plan also set out an ambition to boost the number of pharmacist training places to 4,307 by 2028, marking a 29% increase from the 3,339 training places available for trainee pharmacists in 2022.

And it revealed that NHS decision-makers are giving “consideration…to the potential of a pharmacist degree apprenticeship”.

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