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Dr Leyla Hannbeck: ‘Why can’t pharmacy have its own ARRS?’

AIMp chief Dr Leyla Hannbeck has called for community pharmacies to host multidisciplinary teams like GP practices do in an exclusive interview with C+D.

Speaking to C+D this week (July 10), Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp) chief executive Dr Leyla Hannbeck said that community pharmacies should be offered a workforce recruitment programme like the additional roles reimbursement scheme (ARRS).

Under the scheme, which is backed by funding, pharmacists and other staff such as paramedics and physiotherapists are recruited into GP practices via primary care networks (PCNs).

While many community pharmacy leaders have spoken out against the ARRS and called for its end, some have defended the scheme as a means by which pharmacists can gain crucial experience working in a multidisciplinary setting.


“We are in every community”


Community pharmacy is an excellent setting for ARRS-type schemes because of its accessibility across the UK, Dr Hannbeck told C+D.

She argued that the true problem with the ARRS is that it does not use community pharmacies as settings for a multidisciplinary approach to patient care.

Read more: NHSE to ‘extend success’ of ARRS under workforce plans

She said: “The problem I have with [the] ARRS is this: why aren’t pharmacists given that sort of scheme?” “We are accessible…we are in every community.”

“Why is it that we are not getting the funding to put in place a multidisciplinary workforce, which is absolutely vital in every community and accessible to patients? What's the explanation for that?” she asked.


GPs get ARRS but pharmacists get “nothing”


Dr Hannbeck said that she often hears that it is a community pharmacy’s obligation to make jobs in pharmacies “attractive” to pharmacists.

But she asked how this could be achieved if the pharmacies “haven’t got the money” in the face of rising energy bills, as well as the cost of drugs “massively going up” and late payments of concessions.

“Why are they not given the option to have this money so that they can invest in having a multidisciplinary workforce working within that accessibility that community pharmacy provides?” Dr Hannbeck asked.

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

She called on decision-makers to think about community pharmacy as a place where such teams can engage in primary care, adding that “we all know who kept the doors open throughout the pandemic”.

She said that many AIMp members have schemes by which they invest in their staff, but that it is “very hard” for them to continue doing so without additional funding because “they get zero money” for this investment.

“While the doctors get the ARRS scheme, pharmacists are getting nothing,” she said.

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

Dr Hannbeck told C+D that she “doesn’t like it” when it is said that the NHS cannot afford workforce schemes such as the one she proposes. “The NHS has money…how this money has been managed, it's a different story,” she said.

She added that there is “plenty of evidence” that community pharmacy can deliver “if given the right opportunity”.


Opinions on the ARRS


Despite mounting objections to the scheme from community pharmacy and other healthcare professions, the ARRS is going nowhere, according to the recently published NHS long term workforce plan.

In late June, Community Pharmacy England’s (CPE) chief executive Janet Morrison called for pharmacist recruitment into ARRS to be scrapped, saying that “workforce issues” were a reason why it had become “impossible” for pharmacy owners to “make ends meet”.

The Company Chemists Association (CCA) also called for pharmacist recruitment into ARRS to be halted in May, as the government announced it had met its recruitment targets for the scheme, including over 6,000 pharmacists and over 4,500 other pharmacy professionals.

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

When Ms Morrison made a similar attack on the scheme in February this year, calling it “damaging”, the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) Union director Paul Day responded to say that employers were responsible for 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,” Mr Day told C+D in February.

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