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NPA-CCA cautiously welcome NHS workforce plan but ARRS concerns persist

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NPA-CCA cautiously welcome NHS workforce plan but ARRS concerns persist

By Neil Trainis

The National Pharmacy Association and Company Chemists’ Association have cautiously welcomed the government’s commitment to increase training places for pharmacists to around 5,000 places by 2031-32 in its NHS workforce plan – and expressed concern that funding will continue to be put towards the Additional Roles Reimbursement Scheme.

The 151-page plan maps out a 15-year staff recruitment and retention strategy that could see 60,000 more doctors, 170,000 more nurses and 71,000 more allied health professionals working in the NHS by 2036-37.

The plan also says education and training places for pharmacists need to grow by 31 per cent to 55 per cent “to meet the demand for pharmacy services,” thus reaching 4,359-5,174 places by 2032-33. To achieve that, the plan says, training places for pharmacists will need to increase by 15 per cent in 2026-27 and 29 per cent to about 4,300 by 2028-29.

The plan highlighted the need to grow the pharmacy technician workforce and allow them to supply medicines and services through Patient Group Directions as well as support 3,000 pharmacists who have graduated but not completed an independent prescriber course to gain the skills and qualifications to prescribe as independent clinicians.

The plan, which also said it would explore the continued expansion of training through the apprenticeship route for pharmacy technicians and the potential of a pharmacist degree apprenticeship, insisted the government “intends to consult on these changes in due course.”

However, it was the plan’s suggestion that it would “seek to extend the success” of the ARRS which has led many within community pharmacy to claim it has had a devastating impact on the sector’s workforce, that concerned the NPA and CCA.

“We are doubtful about the decision to continue funding of the Additional Roles Reimbursement Scheme. The ARRS only makes sense if it is adding capacity to the primary care system, not stripping capacity from other community and secondary care settings,” they said in a joint statement.

The bodies, though, were encouraged by the plan’s insistence that the “expansion would be carefully managed taking into account additional training of pharmacists to ensure the growth in workforce is sustainable and considers the additional capacity required to staff roles across primary care.”

The NPA and CCA said they had “consistently called for the impact on community pharmacies to be mitigated” and added they looked “forward to further details.”

Although they welcomed the inclusion of community pharmacy in its workforce plans, which they said showed “the NHS now explicitly recognises the need for more pharmacists to match ever-increasing patient demand and the development of clinical services,” they again expressed the need to see “further details” and insisted “any action must be co-ordinated at a national as well as integrated care board level if it is to be truly effective and prevent systems competing against each other for resources.”

Community Pharmacy England also called for more details on how the plan will impact the sector and promised to “ensure the proposals will be implemented in a way that benefits the workforce situation” in community pharmacy.

Community Pharmacy England’s director of NHS services Alastair Buxton warned the government that its failure to “plan properly for the impact of the ARRS scheme on community pharmacies has been disastrous for many pharmacy owners” and pressed for assurances that the sector “will not fall through the gaps as systems take on responsibility for workforce planning.”

Buxton also wanted assurances that Integrated Care Systems will work with local pharmaceutical committees across England.

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