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‘Pharmacy First could damage the already fragile workforce situation, if not introduced properly’


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Only 4% pharmacists surveyed said that they had confidence the sector could deliver the PFS alongside the existing workload 

Many frontline pharmacists have raised concerns about the hurried launch of Pharmacy First Service (PFS) in England amidst the many challenges currently facing community pharmacy, especially inadequate staffing.

To understand the reality of the sector’s preparedness for the introduction of the scheme, the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) recently conducted a survey.

Over 3,500 employed and locum pharmacists who work in England’s community pharmacies participated in the survey, which ran between 5 and 14 January.

After reviewing all the data and comments, it was found that nearly 70 per cent of respondents strongly agreed/agreed with the principle of Pharmacy First.

While 84 per cent agreed that the scheme could improve patient care, up to 77 per cent respondents stated that it could improve professional fulfilment for pharmacists.

However, 87 per cent of the participants strongly agreed/agreed that the new service could damage the already “fragile” workforce situation, if it is not introduced or resourced properly.

Overall, 66 per cent of respondents said that they were not confident that their pharmacy would be able to deliver PFS on 31 January given the current workload, and nearly 30 per cent were unsure they can do it.

Only four per cent of the pharmacists surveyed expressed confidence that the sector could deliver the PFS in addition to the existing workload on 31 January.

Many respondents were apprehensive that the additional demand for Pharmacy First consultations will result in an increase in their exposure to violence and abuse from members of the public when their expectations are not met.

PDA suggests changes to the introduction of PFS

The association shared the survey results to the NHS England and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) in a meeting on 17 January, suggesting changes to the introduction of the scheme to support the patient and pharmacist experience in the early stages.

The PDA asked the CPhO for NHS England and senior DHSC officials to make the launch of the seven new services to be more gradual, so that the sector gets more time to prepare and, in this way, their exposure to abuse will be reduced.

Shortage of funding for community pharmacy has led to a reduction in pharmacy staffing levels, the association said, and suggested that “this vicious cycle needs to be broken and reversed if pharmacy is to reach its full potential.”

Community pharmacies will be provided funding for extra staff needed for delivery of Pharmacy First.

But the PDA argued that use of this funding is not being monitored by NHS England, and pharmacists have seen little in the way of extra resources being made available.

It has also warned of the severe staffing level shortages situation and its likely impact upon the safety of patients and pharmacists.

Despite the discussion with NHS England and DHSC, there hasn’t been any changes to the national launch plans of the scheme, which is scheduled to begin on 31 January 2024.





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