Efforts to recruit more pharmacists into the NHS are exacerbating staff shortages within community pharmacies, according to a trade body.
The Company Chemists Association (CCA), which represents more than half of the community pharmacy sector, said the recruitment of pharmacists into NHS primary care networks has contributed to staff shortages at pharmacies, which has pushed up their staffing costs.
Since 2019, 3,000 pharmacists have been recruited into NHS primary care networks, which the CCA says is around 10% of the community pharmacist workforce.
The NHS plans to recruit a total of 6,000 pharmacists in England by 2024, equivalent to nearly three full years of new pharmacists, but the CCA said there are no concrete plans to encourage young people to qualify as pharmacists.
“The government needs to acknowledge the acute workforce crisis that community pharmacy is facing and urgently take action for all parts of primary care,” said Malcolm Harrison, CCA CEO.
“The pressures facing the pharmacist workforce, and the creation of new positions in the NHS, when insufficient additional pharmacists are being trained, is a significant threat to healthcare in England. Fundamentally, without action patient access to medicines is likely to suffer.”
The body said that the government should develop an efficient resourcing model that will allow community pharmacists to support the NHS where needed, describing its current attempts at plugging skills gaps as “short-sighted”.
The pharmacist workforce crisis was confirmed earlier this year when they were added to the government’s shortage occupation list.
A call for evidence by the Migration Advisory Committee revealed that the shortage was particularly acute in the south east of England, and its report said that the focus on recruiting clinical pharmacists into primary care and care homes in the NHS Long-Term Plan “could emerge as a significant challenge for pharmacy departments in the coming years”.