From April, NHS England will reimburse GP practices 100% of what it considers the “actual salary” costs and “defined on-costs” – an additional outlay that may include pension contributions – of employing a pharmacist and a pharmacy technician through a primary care network (PCN), it announced earlier this month (February 6).
The announcement came as part of the updated GP contract NHS England negotiated with the British Medical Association (BMA), published on February 6.
PCNs hiring a pharmacist with a seniority level equivalent to band 7 or 8a on the Agenda for Change pay scale – NHS England’s pay system for all NHS staff except doctors, dentists and very senior managers – will be reimbursed a maximum of £55,670 over 12 months for each pharmacist they employ, according to the contract.
However, the PDA said this sum will not always be sufficient, because it believes a PCN pharmacist should sometimes be more senior than the bands indicated in the contract.
PDA head of policy Alima Batchelor said the deal will not “fully reimburse [the] employment of a pharmacist of suitable seniority (above 8a) to provide the level of expertise and experience required to work with clinical directors to build and develop robust, able pharmacist PCN teams”.
“NHS England has perpetuated the risk of practices failing to invest the required resource to attract suitably qualified candidates by suggesting that the increased amount is now ‘100%’ reimbursement,” she told C+D on February 10.
An NHS England spokesperson told C+D earlier this month (February 14) that PCNs can decide to pay more to cover the costs of a “clinical” pharmacist, if they chose to do so, and are free to hire pharmacists with the level of seniority that best meets their needs.
NHS England said it will only reimburse the overall salary costs up to £55,670, the limit specified in the GP contract.
The recent changes to the GP contract will enable GP practices to “recruit suitable pharmacists or pharmacy technicians”, the BMA General Practitioners Committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey told C+D last week (February 20).
“Therefore, [we] do not believe that it would be helpful to pay above these fully-funded rates, including in PCNs,” he added.
NHS salaries for professionals who are not doctors, dentists or “high-level members of staff”, are defined by the Agenda for Change specifications, which “ensures consistency across the country and avoid[s] any geographic deficiencies caused by healthcare professionals moving elsewhere because of higher salaries”, Dr Vautrey said.