Over 26,000 primary care staff have been recruited into general practices under the Additional Roles Reimbursement Scheme (ARRS) since 2019, meeting the government’s primary care recruitment target one year ahead of schedule.

In its election manifesto, the Conservative government committed to recruit 26,000 additional primary care professionals – such as practice-based pharmacists, general practice nurses and mental health practitioners – to work in general practice by March 2024.

And today the Department of Health and Social Care announced that it had already met its target, with 29,103 additional primary care staff now working in general practice, including 26,877 hired through the ARRS.

NHS England data published today (18 May) shows that there are 29,103 more full-time equivalent (FTE) direct patient care staff working in primary care as of March 2023 compared to March 2019, 

As of March 2023, 6,331 full-time equivalent (FTE) pharmacists had been recruited to work in general practice under ARRS funding since it was introduced in 2019 – the most recruited role under the scheme.

And 732 FTE advanced pharmacist practitioners as well as 2,142 FTE pharmacy technicians had also been recruited through ARRS.

The scheme has been hailed as a success by government and NHS leaders in creating greater access to general practice.

But a recent report from the Company Chemists’ Association suggested that the recruitment of pharmacists into primary care was ‘stealing’ the workforce from other pharmacy sectors and exacerbating the workload and staffing crises within community pharmacy.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said that it was ‘fantastic news’ that the government had delivered on its promise to expand primary care teams almost one year earlier than planned.

‘These dedicated professionals play a vital role at the front door of our NHS - supporting patients, delivering excellent care and helping to cut waiting lists,’ he said.

While health and social care Secretary Steve Barclay said that increase in ARRS staff meant ‘more clinicians delivering better, more specialised and accessible care to patients’.

He added that the government was focused on cutting waiting lists and remained ‘determined to end the 8am scramble [for GP appointments], improve technology and reduce bureaucracy’.

And Amanda Pritchard, NHS England chief executive, said that ‘thanks to these new GP teams record numbers of appointments are being delivered, with the latest figures showing that more than 31 million appointments took place in March 2023 – up almost a third compared to pre-pandemic.’

This article has been updated to correct that since 2019, an additional 29,103 FTE primary care staff have been recruited to work in general practice, including 26,877 hired through the ARRS.