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Reported number of full-time PCN pharmacists grows to almost 2,000

291 PCNs also reported having employed at least one pharmacy technician

The number of full-time equivalent (FTE) pharmacists reported to be working for PCNs was 1,929 as of March 2021, experimental data from NHS Digital has shown.

There were 153 FTE primary care network (PCN) pharmacists as of March 2020 – when NHS Digital began recording PCN workforce data. However, only 15% of active PCNs were sharing their workforce data at the time, NHS Digital told C+D today (May 24).

As of March 2021, 68% of the existing 1,253 PCNs were using the national workforce reporting system and reported that a total of 1,929 pharmacists were working within a PCN, according to PCN workforce data published by NHS Digital last week (May 20).

The provisional data shows that the reported number for FTE pharmacy technicians increased from three in March 2020 to 373 in March 2021.

291 PCNs employed at least one pharmacy technician

According to the data, 480 PCNs had either not employed or not recorded employing an FTE pharmacist. Meanwhile, 291 had reported hiring at least one FTE pharmacy technician.

Most staff employed by PCNs are funded through the additional roles reimbursement scheme (ARRS). Last year, the scheme was broadened to include pharmacy technicians hired by PCNs, for whom they can claim a maximum annual reimbursement rate of £35,389.

In some cases, one role might be covered by more than one person and the working hours might be completed by a group of healthcare professionals employed by another organisation and deployed to work for the PCN as a “contracted service”, NHS Digital said.

In that case, “the PCN provides us with information about the average weekly working hours covered by that ‘contracted service’”, according to NHS Digital.

Regions with the highest number of reported PCN pharmacists

The Midlands was the region with the highest number of reported FTE PCN pharmacists, of which there were 502 as of March this year, according to the NHS Digital data set.

It was followed by London, which had 337, and North East and Yorkshire, which reported 298 FTE pharmacists.

Pharmacists were added to the government’s ‘shortage occupation list’ earlier this year, a decision that was welcomed by the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies, which at the time told C+D that “community pharmacies continue to lose experienced pharmacists to PCN-related activity”.

Would you consider becoming a PCN pharmacist?

Interleukin -2, Community pharmacist

When we ve all left community pharmacy, our forte, in droves into all these non essential roles, which nurses and technicians can do by the way, that doesnt require the skills and expertise of a PHARMACIST..and we have no way back into our little shops where we checked boxes for a descent wage.. what will follow is an apocalyptic race to the bottom. Its like a self-fulfilling prophesy..I mean some presenter in ITV once used the word "pretend doctor" and caused quite a stir,  I didnt get what the fuss was at the time .......I still dont

C A, Community pharmacist

You've obviously been lucky enough not to get hit by the 2016 cuts... decent wage, yeah sure 10 years ago!

Beta Blocker, Primary care pharmacist

Decent wage?? Where have you been living for the last 10 years??

I was on peanuts in community, the newly qualified usually are. Made absolute sense for me to go into general practice and get paid more for less stressful work.

TC PA, Community pharmacist

I would recommend anyone who is not locked into community pharmacy for financial reasons to go into a hospital/PCN role if possible. Even if the PCN roles cease to exist once funding is pulled, you will pick up valuable skills and qualifications if you have a supportive practice (this is key). This will open more doors to future careers.

You can always go back to community pharmacy in the future anyway.

mark straughton, Pharmaceutical Adviser

Good advice here. Like to hear other opinions. What do you think is the prospects for community pharmacists? Do you think there will be a role in PCN? What other future careers are you aware off?

TC PA, Community pharmacist

I won't pretend to be an expert. I've worked accross several geographical areas in Hospital now community in the past 15 years, so I only give my opinion based on my experiences. Others with more experience may have different views. I left hospital for financial and relocation reasons, I'm fortunate enough to work for an excellent small/medium sized chain so personally will not be moving to a PCN or hospital role any time soon.

I find it hard to predict the future role and career prospects for community pharmacy. You hear a lot of noise about pilot schemes and integration with other healthcare providers but it is very hard when dealing with so many different stake holders with different financial aims. The bottom line is most pharmacies still need script volume to remain viable, until that changes the majority of owners will not be interested in offering other services. Larger chains who increasingly utilise hub and spoke may not be so focussed on script volume at a branch level. They will be more willing to offer other NHS and private services. 

So if you are able to live on the initial wage a PCN or band 6/7 hospital position provides then I would grab it with both hands. With the NHS looking to fill Doctor's roles with cheaper alternatives like pharmacists, there will plenty of scope for new roles if you can prove your worth. The GP pharmacist who works at the nearest GP to me has moved from around 39K a year to being an advanced practitioner with oversight of audits and care homes for the PCN within 5 years. I don't know their wage now but would think it is band 8c range. They enrolled on the GP pharmacist pilot scheme 5 years ago, the scheme a poster mentioned in a previous comment.

And if it doesn't work out once funding is pulled, you'll have a clincal diploma (or equivilant), independant prescribing and knowledge of GP systems. You could move into a CCG role, hospital role, private clinic role and plenty of others I would have thought. 

Chemical Mistry, Information Technology

More to the role of practice pharmacist than answering prescription queries many run clinics for long term conditions and also specialise in other conditions such has mental health , role is what you make it with the GP needs and have autonomy in the role unlike community pharmacy 

Emma Harrison, Pharmacy owner/ Proprietor

At the beginning of the year C&D published an article about this and some people were commenting that it is untrue that a big number of pharmacists are going to PCNs, well here is your evidence!

C A, Community pharmacist

'Oh no, there are such massive shortages due to PCNs, whatever shall we do?'

To put it into perspective the prov-reg cohort was 2670 strong

M. Rx(n), Student

I may be wrong, but I believe the contention was that claims of shortage of Community Pharmacists were inorganic and self-inflicted re: atrocious conditions.

As I said, I may be mixing up separate points though.

Simon Ingham, Superintendent Pharmacist

I think the feeling is that it won't dry up but will continue to expand and develop in new directions.  Imagine if the majority of items go to a delivery system (Amazon Pharmacy) and most pharmacies close as they are sustained by the items.  The professional services that pharmacists provide would come from GP or PCN locations rather than pharmacies.

If you remove all the item checking from the community pharmacist role then dealing with prescription queries and medicines management is a lot of what we do.  We complain about getting stuck checking all day long, then don't understand the pharmacists that choose to stop doing just that.

M. Rx(n), Student

So why not have more than one Pharmacist per Pharmacy to provide better IN-PERSON care. Is the creation of niche roles necessary to accomplish that? Seems a circuitous and convoluted and self-defeating way to achieve such end.

By the way, if Amazon or whatever craze du jour is going to process and ship medicines on demand and then look to you to deal with queries, I don't think that would be much of a being Pharmacist. It is a fundamentally dubious and patient-averse care model.

mark straughton, Pharmaceutical Adviser

More than one pharmacist per pharmacy? Who's going to pay the salaries and what salary would that be? 

Dealing with queries is not a tangible outcome that would justify in the long run a budget.

M. Rx(n), Student

a "tangible outcome" is whatever a bean counter considers it to be in the context of patient care.

Either way, my point is in the context of the OP's oblique reasoning. Seems like simultaneously easing the load at the frontline while providing better in-situ care is an infinitely better care pathway with respect to the OP's claim.

mark straughton, Pharmaceutical Adviser

Very true. But this is an imaginative and idealistic view. I don't see how this in any way could be translated into the real world and how pharmacy looks now and the immediate future

M. Rx(n), Student

A bizarre contention. Sorry.

The claim of realism vs idealism is a rather arbitrary dichotomy that seems to be the refuge of vested interests.

A cost vs. total value claim on the other hand would actually be based in reality.

Dave Downham, Manager

Oooh look! Big words!

Angela Channing, Community pharmacist

I know, Dave. I have no idea what they're trying to say either! All style and no substance, hidden behind two words from a thesaurus in every sentence.

M. Rx(n), Student

The fact that you know a thesaurus to be a thing, is a good start. There's hope yet.

M. Rx(n), Student

Thoughtful contribution there, guvnuh.

Were those too big for you too?

mark straughton, Pharmaceutical Adviser

Your imagination again!

Believe it or not I'm on your side and couldn't agree more. More than one pharmacy per pharmacy. Great Idea. But I don't see any mechanism that would lead to the happening whatsoever considering the corporate interest, the global sum etc. I can't see any route that would lead to that being viable.

M. Rx(n), Student

No, you're arguing a point that's not being made.

The multiple Pharmacists point was directly in reply to the convoluted attempt at a justification proffered by the OP.

There's nothing to debate if looked at in direct respect to the OP's assertions.

Again, cost vs. total value.

N O, Pharmaceutical Adviser

Ok. So all independents close. All meds go to delivery. Then who will do the acute? Who will answer the queries from patients receiving meds from Hubs?

C A, Community pharmacist

You'll have to phone your doctor... good news, you are currently in queue position 16. Your call is important to us, please hold the line.

M. Rx(n), Student

When the craze dies down, reality usually is a sober companion.

A.S. Singh, Community pharmacist

I recently spoke to a young pharmacist who qualified in 2015 and subsequently spent 4 years as a community pharmacist. I asked her why she became a PCN pharmacist and it cemented my own thoughts.

She replied - it's an office job, easier work, no abuse, no weekends and a pension. Makes complete sense to me except for the GPs funding dries up, the role will probably disappear

Beta Blocker, Primary care pharmacist

I was part of the 3 year NHS pilot scheme for pharmacists in general practice that ran in 2016/2017. At the end of the 3 years I was offered a permanent job because I demonstrated what I brought to the table and I was involved in long term condition reviews, interpretation of bloods, filing discharges and prescribing. If you demonstrate what you can do and become a valued member of the team, they'll find funding for the right person. 

mark straughton, Pharmaceutical Adviser

Thanks, thought so. So there appears to be a better work/life balance here but is there a career in it? I understand there's funding for a Pharmacist in GP surgeries st the mo but undoubtedly this will be pulled or revised in some way in the future. If I was a practice manager or a partner in a GP surgery and if I look at the problem of meds mgmt I'd much rather pay £25k ish for a pharmacy tech/ promote someone from admin, than pay a Pharmacist £45k ish. 

I don't see the benefit of employing a Pharmacist for these roles when it's mostly admin which specifically doesn't need a professional input. Yes a Pharmacist would be in a better position to suggest alternatives for shortages and deal with minor ailments etc,  but is this worth the extra £20kish to a GP surgery?

M. Rx(n), Student

If everything is reduced to "cost", nothing of value is achieved.

I'd argue there's more a Pharmacist can offer in a surgery setting, than assert that it's a role better suited to a 'technician'.

Pharmacy at its core is a technical Profession. Current pretensions to mutate it into a pound-store medical practitioner role aside, it fundamentally requires a mastery of the technical aspects of medicines processing, handling, management and use.

mark straughton, Pharmaceutical Adviser

That's true and I'm not doubting the technical potential of a Pharmacist. But a surgery looking at the nuisance of prescription queries. A practice manager dealing with headache of prescription queries. GPs getting inundated with tasks to issue prescriptions then threatening to retire because of workload. 

There's nothing progressive achieved by being the prescription query resolver.

Unless the surgery is looking for prescriber I don't see the difference in going for a cheaper technician than a pharmacist.


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