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Pharmacy faces workforce shortages and needs a plan, says select committee


Pharmacy faces workforce shortages and needs a plan, says select committee

By Neil Trainis


A cross-party Commons health and social care select committee report published today has warned nearly every sector including pharmacy is facing workforce shortages and called on the government to produce a workforce plan for the profession. 

The group of influential MPs claimed the NHS and social care is facing its “greatest workforce crisis” in history and accused the government of failing to come up with a “credible” strategy to address the situation. The inquiry looked at recruitment, retention and training across health and social care and concluded there was “an opportunity to better utilise the pharmacy workforce.”

The Committee said an “integrated and funded workforce plan” ensuring all pharmacists have access to supervision, training and protected learning time with clear structures for career development should be laid before parliament within 12 months. The Committee also said the plan’s vision should be that all newly-qualified pharmacists are independent prescribers by 2027.

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s director for England Ravi Sharma told the inquiry the latter was “fundamentally important to the NHS from both a capacity perspective and a clinical service perspective” because it will “optimise the workload that healthcare staff are able to experience” and “improve access to care for the population (and) ensure better use of medicines.”

He said the report highlighted the “urgent need for the Government to set out a comprehensive workforce plan for health and care.”

“It rightly recognises that boosting recruitment and retention, supporting staff wellbeing, fostering inclusion and diversity, and investing in education and training will be crucial to the future of the NHS,” he said.

“Pharmacy teams will play a key role in the NHS recovery, but with continued pressures on staff we need support for the workforce so they can keep looking after patients.

“The next generation of pharmacist independent prescribers will make a huge difference to patient care, but there are some key factors to make the most of their skills.

“I would urge the Government and NHS to listen to the Committee’s call for an integrated and funded workforce plan for pharmacy, which ensures that all pharmacists have adequate access to supervision, training, and protected learning time, along with clear structures for professional development.”

The report was damning as far as the government was concerned. It said Number 10 rejected recommendations to launch independent analyses of workforce shortages in all health and social care professions having voted it down three times in the Health and Care Bill.

Different bodies within pharmacy have been split on whether shortages exist within the sector. The Company Chemists’ Association, which represents the large pharmacy chains and who submitted written evidence to the inquiry, has repeatedly insisted there is a “workforce crisis” which has forced some of its members’ branches to close.

CCA chief exeutive Malcolm Harrison said the report was "yet another reminder that the entire healthcare system is suffering from recruitment and retention challenges" and he insisted community pharmacy "is not immune." He said the CCA backed the Committee's call for a workforce plan.

"We also agree the plan must account for the onset of all newly qualified pharmacists eventually becoming independent prescribers," he said.

"Greater opportunities must also be granted for independent prescribers in community settings, to utilise their newly acquired skills. As the report highlights, pharmacies can only do more if they are able to access the funding and investment they need.

"We also thank the Expert Panel report for highlighting the staffing challenges in community pharmacy and in particular the recruitment of pharmacists from community settings directly into primary care networks.”

However, the Pharmacists’ Defence Association has accused some large multiples of misleading the public into believing the “national shortages façade” in an attempt to conceal what the PDA believes has been the real reason for closures; that some large chains have tried to force locums to lower their pre-agreed rates and cancelled their shifts having failed to do so. 





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