A plan to increase and develop the NHS workforce, including community pharmacists and their teams, has been published by the Government and NHS today.

The long awaited NHS Long Term Workforce Plan maps out a strategy to recruit and retain hundreds of thousands more staff spanning 15 years. Its projections suggest that, by 2036/37, the NHS could have at least 60,000 more doctors, 170,000 more nurses and 71,000 more allied health professionals.

The plan has specific measures to support and develop the pharmacy workforce, and has given specific consideration to community pharmacy in recognition of what it describes as the sector’s ‘unique circumstances’. It notes that education and training places for pharmacists are estimated to need to grow by 31–55% to meet the demand for pharmacy services.

Further information on the plan is included below.

Read the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan

We do not yet have full details on how the measures for community pharmacy will be implemented, but Community Pharmacy England will be working to ensure that the proposals will be implemented in a way that benefits the workforce situation in our sector.

Commenting on the publication of the plan, Alastair Buxton, Director of NHS Services at Community Pharmacy England, said:

“The NHS workforce crisis has been hitting community pharmacy owners incredibly hard, contributing to locum rates going up a staggering 85% in one year alone and becoming the number one cause of temporary pharmacy closures. The impact on pharmacy teams has been enormous, adding to their already pressured workload, so it is good that NHS England and the Government are finally taking a proactive approach to workforce planning and including community pharmacy within that.

“The plan references the benefit of the use of hub and spoke dispensing to free up capacity, but beyond the need for the Government to implement the long promised legislation to allow that approach to be used across the whole sector, significant investment would be required to make that approach a financially viable scenario for pharmacy owners.

“The success or failure of this workforce plan will depend on its implementation. NHS England must not repeat previous mistakes – the failure to plan properly for the impact of the ARRS scheme on community pharmacies has been disastrous for many pharmacy owners – and we need assurance that pharmacy will not fall through the gaps as systems take on responsibility for workforce planning, including the need for them to work with Local Pharmaceutical Committees in England.

“Community pharmacy wants to do more, but pharmacies need affordable and available pharmacists and other staff members in order to do so. This workforce plan must deliver that.”

Further Information on the Workforce Plan

Pharmacy training

In the plan, the Government is committing to expanding training places for pharmacists to around 4,300 by 2028/29 and to almost 5,000 by 2031/32. The number of pharmacy technicians will also grow in future years.
The plan says consideration is being given to the potential of both a pharmacy technician training apprenticeship and a pharmacist degree apprenticeship.
The plan also references the ongoing changes to the initial education and training of pharmacists, with newly qualified pharmacists being independent prescribers (IP) from 2026, and the existing NHS England training offer for community pharmacists to become IPs.

Digital and technological innovations

The plan suggests that hub and spoke models and automated dispensing will help reduce the time pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and dispensers spend on direct medicines supply. It says this is expected to release capacity across the community pharmacy workforce to support a greater focus on delivering clinical services.
It also suggests that switching to paperless systems for dispensing will enable community pharmacies to make efficiency savings, subject to the right support and investment.

Optimising multidisciplinary teams

The plan says the NHS will extend the Additional Roles Reimbursement Scheme (ARRS) in a carefully managed way, 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.
It also notes an existing Government commitment to regulatory reform to enable pharmacy technicians to supply or administer medicines under Patient Group Directions.

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