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ARRS has resulted in pharmacy closures, says Phoenix chief


ARRS has resulted in pharmacy closures, says Phoenix chief

By Neil Trainis

Phoenix UK group managing director Steve Anderson has added his voice to growing criticism of additional roles reimbursement scheme funding for pharmacists in GP surgeries by insisting it has created a “recruitment and retention crisis” in community pharmacy , “driven up locum costs” and brought about the closure of pharmacies.

Anderson (pictured) pulled no punches as he assessed the ARRS’s impact on community pharmacy as well as revelations, revealed in parliament recently by health minister Neil O’Brien, that almost half of the £839 million spent on ARRS roles between 2019 and 2022 – £387 million – went towards employing GP pharmacists.

Anderson said he was “at a loss to understand” how primary care pharmacist roles have “improved patient access to essential NHS care, support and advice” and accused the government and NHS England of “a misallocation of scarce public funding which could and should have been used to support the existing network of community pharmacies which are key to improving health outcomes across the country.”

Anderson’s remarks follow claims last week by Company Chemists’ Association chief executive Malcolm Harrison that the £387 million was “a staggering amount of money” which had “directly led to the shortfall of community pharmacists in England.”

“I agree with Malcolm that NHSE spending £387 million since 2019 on recruiting pharmacists into PCN roles is a staggering sum and a ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’ strategy which adds no clear patient benefit,” Anderson said.

“The government tells us there is no money to address chronic underfunding of community pharmacy in England, yet it can find the cash to recruit pharmacists to work in PCNs with no recognition this has created a recruitment and retention crisis in our sector, driven up locum costs and resulted in frontline pharmacy closures and restricted opening hours.”

Insisting Numark will hold ministers to account when the ARRS is reviewed next year ahead of talks over the 2024-25 GP contract, Anderson added: “Why on earth spend £387 million with no clearly defined patient benefit being delivered? How does an NHSE recruitment frenzy fit with the proposed pharmacy first strategy?

“This lack of joined-up policy making needs to end. Much-needed primary care provision reform needs to embrace community pharmacy as a core catalyst, not a peripheral add-on extra.”

Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes integrated care board member Mahesh Shah told a session at the Pharmacy Show this month that the ARRS was "a strategic mistake" and insisted all pharmacists should work in a community pharmacy, not a GP practice.


















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