The Company Chemists Association (CCA)’s workforce finding showed that by 2024 eight years’ worth of growth of the pharmacist workforce will have been funnelled away from community pharmacies.
“In 2019, when NHS leaders realised they were unable to find enough GPs to meet the public’s needs, they hastily decided to recruit pharmacists and other healthcare professionals to fill the gaps. This was implemented without any corresponding efforts to increase the supply of pharmacists, creating huge shortages,” said CCA.
“The bulk of the NHS’s recruitment drive was paid for using additional money ringfenced by the NHS – the £2.4bn Additional Roles Reimbursement Scheme (ARRS). We estimate over the life course of ARRS funding (2019-2024), the equivalent of eight years of growth in the number of pharmacists in England will have been funnelled directly into primary care at the expense of other sectors.
At the current rate, CCA estimate that community pharmacy will have experienced the equivalent of three fallow years by 2024.
To ensure the pharmacy network is protected and able to take pressure off other parts of the NHS, there are several urgent measures which must be implemented.
Countering the impact of primary care recruitment: Community pharmacists should be commissioned to provide ‘packages of care’ on behalf of GPs, rather than taking pharmacists away from accessible high street settings.
Funding: an immediate uplift of funding for pharmacies is needed to meet spiralling costs and enable investment in staff to ease pressure and support retention.
Pharmacy First: The Government should immediately implement a fully-funded Pharmacy First service in England. This would enable patients with minor conditions to be seen, diagnosed, and treated at their local pharmacy, freeing up GP capacity.
Malcolm Harrison, the Chief Executive of the CCA said: “The Government must act without delay on the ever-deepening community pharmacy workforce crisis.
Although GP recruitment of pharmacists is not the only factor contributing to the workforce crisis, it is undoubtedly fanning the flames. This downward spiral is creating untenable pressure on pharmacists and their teams.
Robbing Peter to pay Paul is short-sighted and such ‘whack-a-mole’ policies are doing more harm than good to patients.
The Government must devise an evidence-led workforce plan for all professions across primary care, ensuring patients can access the care that they need when and where they need it.”