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Webb: Working environments a major factor in staffing challenges

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Webb: Working environments a major factor in staffing challenges

Clockwise from top left: CPhOs Alison Strath, Cathy Harrison, Andrew Evans & David Webb

Factors like the “quality of environment” and scope for career progression contribute to community pharmacy’s staffing challenges just as much as personnel shortages, England’s chief pharmaceutical officer (CPhO) David Webb has told P3pharmacy.  

Speaking via videolink during an audience Q&A session at the Sigma Pharmaceuticals conference today (February 27), Mr Webb took a question from P3pharmacy around the ongoing recruitment and retention challenges reported by community pharmacy employers.  

He said that the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan includes commitments to boost the numbers of trained pharmacists and pharmacy technicians but added: “Behind the numbers, which tend to grab the headlines, there’s an amount of work that points to quality of environment, quality of work experience and career progression, which in my mind are equally important points.

“I think those are the things the Long Term Workforce Plan will help us to unpick, as well as the headline numbers.”

Commenting that employers play a crucial role in “creating a working environment that people feel able to flourish in,” Mr Webb also referenced NHS England data suggesting that in the NHS-employed workforce “we still have quite a long way to go” in addressing people’s experiences of bullying and discrimination in the workforce.

Mr Webb declined to answer P3pharmacy’s question as to whether NHSE is prepared to consider opening up the Additional Roles Reimbursement Scheme to community pharmacy so the sector can benefit from publicly funded staff hours – a lobbying point that is being raised by a growing number of voices within the sector.

Commenting on the approach being taken north of the border, Scotland’s CPhO Alison Strath stressed the need to make community pharmacy “an attractive proposition” for pharmacists and to “understand what some of the challenges are and how we can address them”.

“There is something for me about NHS portfolio careers and working alongside other parts of the system to enable those attractive options,” said Ms Strath, adding that she believes that “prescribing clinically is also something that attracts people into community pharmacy”.

The panel discussion that preceded the Q&A session also heard from Northern Ireland CPhO Cathy Harrison, who said that while education and training for pharmacists is of an “excellent standard” in her country, there is an ongoing challenge of workforce drain as trained professionals move to the Republic of Ireland due to its strong economy.

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