Pharmacy leaders urge the Minister of State for a workforce plan in a joint letter

Pharmacy leaders have warned the Government about a lack of engagement with stakeholders around the development of its long-term workforce plan in England.

A joint letter signed by representatives from 14 pharmacy organisations has called for reassurance that the workforce plan, expected by April 2023, will cover the entirety of the pharmacy workforce across the health service, including in community pharmacy.

The letter notes that the Health and Social Care Committee in July 2022 called for a pharmacy workforce plan to help optimise workloads across primary care, reduce pressure on general practice and hospitals, and support integrated care systems.

The letter highlights that with continued pressures on services, it is more important than ever to support the pharmacy workforce so that the staff needed to deliver patient care now and into the future can be recruited, trained and retained.

The letter was co-signed by:

  • Dr Leyla Hannbeck, Chief Executive, Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies
  • Claire Steele, President, Association of Pharmacy Technicians UK
  • Joseph Williams, Chair, British Oncology Pharmacy Association
  • Priyanka Patel, President, British Pharmaceutical Students’ Association
  • Roz Gittins, President, College of Mental Health Pharmacy
  • Malcolm Harrison, Chief Executive, Company Chemists’ Association
  • Nathan Burley, President, Guild of Healthcare Pharmacists
  • Mark Lyonette, Chief Executive, National Pharmacy Association
  • Janet Morrison OBE, Chief Executive, Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee
  • Mark Koziol, Chairman, Pharmacists’ Defence Association
  • Prof Katie Maddock, Chair, Pharmacy Schools Council
  • Dr Graham Stretch, President, Primary Care Pharmacy Association
  • Thorrun Govind, English Pharmacy Board Chair, Royal Pharmaceutical Society
  • Mohamed Rahman, Chair, UK Clinical Pharmacy Association

Dr Leyla Hannbeck, Chief Executive of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies, said:

“These are hard times for community pharmacy and hard times for health care and public sector in general. Wherever you look the qualities of community pharmacies have never been so necessary or aligned to the challenges facing healthcare in this country. If pharmacy is to play a more radical and integrated role in meeting capacity challenges, then its own workforce crisis must be addressed. We simply must have the ability to attract a sustainable workforce motivated and willing to aspire to the opportunities within our sector. It is vital, therefore, that the broader strategy of the NHS embraces a clear vision and purpose for the community pharmacy workforce in the NHS.”

Malcolm Harrison, Chief Executive of the Company Chemists’ Association, said:

“It’s imperative that the NHS workforce plan includes the community pharmacy workforce. A failure to do so risks undermining the important role pharmacy teams are already playing in alleviating pressures on general practice, and the wider healthcare system. Moreover, we urgently need a plan to ensure the existing workforce is upskilled to become independent prescribers, and a roadmap for how these skills will be best utilised through commissioned services.”

Nathan Burley, President of the Guild of Healthcare Pharmacists, said:

“The pharmacy workforce is repeatedly held up as one of the key solutions to NHS pressures. Ease of access to community pharmacy settings, comprehensive medication reviews in primary care, and advanced roles in clinical practice across all areas are just a handful of examples where we shine. Crucially – where is the Government’s plan for pharmacy stakeholder engagement when it comes to getting more staff on the ground to support this, their training, retention, and above all fair remuneration? The GHP welcome not only productive discussion but delivery on this as soon as possible.”

Mark Lyonette, Chief Executive of the National Pharmacy Association, said:

“The covid pandemic clearly demonstrated the importance of the pharmacy workforce to the effective operation of the NHS across the UK, as do the current winter pressures. That’s why we look forward to a constructive dialogue with NHS officials about building capacity for the long term, which must include a funded plan for community pharmacy. An NHS workforce plan that neglects to include community pharmacy would be a massive failure of imagination and a wasted opportunity.”

Janet Morrison, Chief Executive of the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee, said:

“It is crucial that the community pharmacy sector is included in all future NHS workforce strategies. We have been clear that the sector is facing a workforce crisis and that the impacts of this are already severely affecting pharmacies. It is shocking and deeply concerning that locum pharmacist rates are now 80% higher than they were just one year ago: it is totally unworkable to expect businesses to absorb cost increases on this scale and we are continuing to call on Government to intervene to help. This, along with wider funding and inflationary pressures and the increased demand for pharmacy services since the pandemic, is putting critical pressures on the network and this cannot continue.”

Mark Koziol, Chairman of the Pharmacists’ Defence Association, said:

“Our pharmacist members practise across the entire health system and have the potential to do far more to help patients and improve public health, but they can only do so safely if they are in appropriately staffed workplaces. This is a workforce issue, so it is important that the Government works with representatives of the pharmacist workforce, and of their employers, to get a suitably agreed plan in place.”

Dr Graham Stretch, President of the Primary Care Pharmacy Association, said:

“Across Primary Care we have seen a welcome expansion of opportunities for pharmacy professionals delivering their expertise to improve outcomes, safety and capacity for patients in a range of settings. Pharmacists and Pharmacy Technicians have huge potential to make further vital contributions in improving patients’ health and relieving NHS pressures as we widen prescribing and increase access to clinical services provided in primary care. To facilitate role expansion we need appropriate increased investments in education and training capacity together with sustainable, favourable contractual funding arrangements to stimulate workforce growth.”

Thorrun Govind, English Pharmacy Board Chair, Royal Pharmaceutical Society, said:

“It will be crucial to use the skills of all our health professions to support the NHS recovery, reduce health inequalities, manage the growing cost of long-term conditions, and deliver best value from medicines. Pharmacists are increasingly working across care settings and as such the whole of the pharmacy workforce must be included in the Government’s upcoming long-term workforce plan and supported by investment in education and training. Pharmacy teams across the health service are under enormous pressure and as well as support for frontline staff now, the workforce plan must also look to the future and how we can make the most of the next generation of pharmacist independent prescribers to enhance patient care.”

Read the letter to the Minister of State:

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