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Community Pharmacy Scotland (CPS) has today called for a temporary stop to the recruitment of pharmacy workforce to GP primary care support roles, calling it an “unsustainable workforce drain”.

In a statement issued on Tuesday (Aug 31), CPS said: “Over the last 3 to 4 years almost 600 WTE pharmacists and 300 WTE pharmacist technicians have been employed to support the pharmacotherapy element of the GP contract.

“This workforce shift has occurred with no planning to account for the needs of hospital or community pharmacy services, with the vast majority of individuals coming from the latter. These roles are critical to even the most basic functions of our 1258-strong network of pharmacy teams.

‘This level of workforce drain is unsustainable’

“The CPS Board takes recent workforce challenges seriously and is considering the strategic options in addressing the situation. However, we would argue that alongside natural movement away from the sector this level of workforce drain is unsustainable.

“To be clear, we believe that anywhere decisions about medicines are being made, Pharmacist and Pharmacy Technician input is beneficial to patients. While we appreciate this added value that our professions can bring to other areas of NHS Scotland, we believe this uncoordinated recruitment is now one of the major and enduring contributing factors to our unprecedented workforce pressures.

‘Not enough professional hours to meet every demand’

“There are simply not enough Pharmacist and Pharmacy Technician hours in the country to satisfy the combined demands of all three sectors yet the recently published Memorandum of Understanding in July 2021 alongside the NHS Recovery plan indicates there is no sign of slowing the progress in the pharmacotherapy element of the GMS contract for at least the next two years.

The statement added that although the community pharmacy network in Scotland was absolutely committed to the NHS Recovery plan, the ongoing approach to recruitment would ultimately be “detrimental” to the ambitions of achieving excellence in pharmaceutical care.

“With that in mind we also call on political decision makers, healthcare partners and Health Board colleagues to be prepared to support the community pharmacy network in other ways to allow them to continue to support patients in their vital role in the heart of communities,” the statement said.

“Calls for appropriate workforce planning should be happening as a minimum at this time, with priority placed on roles that are critical to patient wellbeing and timely access to services,” it added.

‘Problem equally acute in England, Wales’

Meanwhile, commenting on CPS plea, the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies, said the problem was equally acute in the south of the border, in England

A spokesperson for AIMp said: “GPs recruiting pharmacists has caused a shortage of pharmacists in community pharmacies, which is why AIMp is fully supportive of today’s plea from Community Pharmacy Scotland for the practice to cease.

“The problem is equally acute in England and Wales, where GP surgeries are hiring pharmacists for primary care support roles. AIMp has begun discussions with NHSE about this issue. This is putting extra strain on a sector, already having to cope with the impact of the pandemic and offering their normal services, and being asked by the NHS to supply further treatments and procedures.

‘GPs must be asked to stop’

“The GPs must call at least a temporary halt so we can continue to consult with the NHS and agree a strategy. Pharmacists pride themselves on being accessible and providing a quality, trusted service. This is proving more and more difficult, due to the targeting of their pharmacists and technicians by GP surgeries.

“The GPs must be asked to stop. There is no question of community pharmacists not supporting the expansion of their role and welcoming a reformed NHS, all they are asking for is to be able to retain their employees so they can still operate to the same high standards that the public rightfully expects.”

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