High level talks under way on community pharmacy workforce shortage

The chief executives of the national community pharmacy bodies in England met with senior NHS England and NHS Improvement officials in October, to discuss the current limited availability of pharmacists for community pharmacy roles.

Over recent months, many pharmacy contractors have reported increased staff shortages, leading to difficulties maintaining services and temporary closures in some instances. The chronic shortage of staff includes van drivers, pharmacy technicians and others, not only pharmacists.

NHS England’s director for primary care, Ed Waller, and chief pharmaceutical officer Keith Ridge held talks with leaders from across the pharmacy sector on 28 October. Representatives from the Company Chemists’ Association, the National Pharmacy Association, the Association of Independent Multiple pharmacies and the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee were among those participating.

The topics ranged from the new roles for pharmacists in primary care, an increasing trend towards locum work, decreased participation in permanent roles and temporary staff absence during the pandemic.

AIM, CCA, NPA and PSNC jointly issued this statement today:

“We are currently facing a critical shortage of pharmacists and pharmacy technicians in the community sector. This situation risks jeopardising patients’ access to care and cannot be allowed to continue. Community pharmacy’s response to Covid-19 has shown that the sector is prepared to go above and beyond to support patients and the NHS, but this is unsustainable without the people to deliver consistently. It is therefore vital that these cross-sector conversations with NHS England and NHS Improvement result in solutions to address the matter – both the immediate pinch on capacity and the longer term challenges. There are no easy fixes and this will require a collaborative effort across the sector, NHS and Government.”

Alastair Buxton, Director of NHS Services at PSNC, said:

“At our recent LPC Conference, an overwhelming majority of LPCs identified workforce as the biggest current issue facing the sector, and this matches what we are hearing from contractors. PSNC is continuing to raise, including with the pharmacy Minister, concerns about the extreme pressure this is putting on contractors as they battle to stay open, and also about the significant rises in wages which contractors cannot continue to absorb. We expect this to be a critical topic in our upcoming negotiations on Year 4 of the five-year CPCF deal, but as the cross-sector group on workforce has already identified – there are not going to be any easy, short-term fixes, and this will require long-term effort from across the sector, NHS and Government.”

All parties agreed to continue to work together to look for short, medium and long term solutions. The aim is to develop a collaborative plan to ensure sufficient pharmacists and other staff are available in the community, to ensure uninterrupted patient care and the development of services.

Capture healthcare advisory work not being covered by Pharmacy First to inform our negotiations with Government and NHS.

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