Chief executive of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies Dr Leyla Hannbeck writes exclusively for The Pharmacist on her disappointment with the newly published NHS Long Term Workforce Plan

Community pharmacy is currently facing the biggest challenges to its workforce and this NHS Long Term Workforce Plan is doing very little to help. In fact, contrary to the claims from the Royal Pharmaceutical Society and Association of Pharmacy Technicians, the proposals outlined in the plan will only deepen the crisis besetting our sector.

The lack of a level playing field for community pharmacy created by the ARRS scheme contributed to a workforce crisis in our sector, this at a time when community pharmacies are being asked to do more. Unfortunately, this is going to continue under the new plans.

The concept of extended multidisciplinary working across primary care smacks of a desire to see service delivery via extended channels, namely PCNs and primary care, with less reliance upon the community network. Why not invest in community pharmacy instead, by providing adequate funding for the sector to invest in its workforce?

The Independent Prescribing scheme, whilst a step in the right direction, can only work in community pharmacy when there is financial stability around improved core community pharmacy funding in addition to funding (in line with GP practices) for this prescribing service. Plus, GP teams would need educating to ensure that agreed areas of prescribing are then referred to the pharmacist IP in their respective communities.

We were waiting with high hopes for the publication of the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan, thinking that potential of our sector and its current workforce challenges could be recognised - but it is another kick in the teeth for our sector and comes ahead of an enquiry that has judged us before the evidence is heard.

It displays yet again a deep-seated prejudice to the network model, despite its efficiencies, productivity, accessibility, gains and ability to improve patient outcomes. Indeed, the entire ethos of integrated care was meant to be about bringing providers closer to the people they serve. Exactly what we stand for in other words.

As for easing the regulatory burden through automation, this is far away from reality. Somehow, it’s imagined that automation will suddenly come to the rescue and strip this volume into some magical central dispensary. It won’t, and if the NHS bosses do not wake up to this and stop living in that dream world, they will find the community pharmacy network becomes so fragmented it is no longer able to meet the healthcare needs of communities up and down the country.

Whatever the Royal Pharmaceutical Society and Association of Pharmacy Technicians UK maintain, this is a sad day for community pharmacy.