Bruce Warner said the commissioning body has put “a significant amount of money” into providing “bespoke training programmes” – including leadership and clinical programmes – for pharmacists, to ensure the “skill mix is right” in future primary care networks.
The networks – expanded community multidisciplinary teams, including pharmacists, GPs and “allied health professionals” – were announced in NHS England's long-term plan, published last week (January 7).
But the uptake of leadership training by pharmacists has been “poor”, and the number of pharmacy staff signing up to some clinical education programmes “has been less than what we would have hoped for”, Mr Warner said at the all-party pharmacy group (APPG) meeting on Tuesday (January 15).
He highlighted this as a potential “barrier” to investment in pharmacy, which is needed to help realise its role in the NHS long-term plan.
“When we've got the right people in the right place, doing what we feel needs to be done, then we can start building on the long-term plan,” he said.
“Engagement in the sector – making the most of those opportunities – is something that we still need to work with the sector on.”
“Chicken and egg situation”
Mr Warner admitted that encouraging pharmacists and staff to attend training is a “chicken and egg situation”, as “community pharmacies are busy places”.
“There is an issue, perhaps, that [pharmacists] don’t see [training] as a priority,” he said.
“To take someone out, you can’t underestimate the problems that causes.”
Pharmacists are “on the whole, not necessarily used to being in leadership positions within a local health department”, he added.
“They tend to be led by GPs and [there’s] a lot of nursing input.”
NHS England is running pilots to help “galvanise” and equip the community pharmacy workforce, to “make sure that the local economy makes the best use of pharmacy”, Mr Warner said.
“If community pharmacy in primary care networks…is going to really step up and take the role, then we need to equip pharmacists with the confidence and skills to actually apply for those leadership roles,” Mr Warner added.