Using the ‘wider skills mix’ of community pharmacy and launching a national common conditions service will help to address pressures faced by staff in general practices, the health and social care secretary has suggested.

Speaking exclusively to our sister title, Nursing in Practice, on Monday, Mr Barclay pointed to the incoming launch of England’s Pharmacy First scheme when pressed for solutions on nursing recruitment and retention within general practice.

The health secretary noted that the creation of Pharmacy First would mean people could go to a pharmacy, instead of to a GP, for seven common conditions. He also cited the new pharmacy contraception service.

He then suggested that an increase in use of community pharmacy – coupled with a mix of technology, recruitment and reduced bureaucracy’ – would ‘interplay with the current pressures’ faced by general practices and their nursing staff.

In addition, Mr Barclay was also pressed for an update on the highly anticipated NHS workforce plan.

He reiterated that the plan was due to be published ‘very soon’ but recognised that it had taken ‘a little while to do’ because of its complexity.

The plan was also due to be about more than just a ‘total number’ of staff, and will consider a combination of pay, working conditions, technology, estate and staffing levels, Mr Barclay added.

He said it was also ‘thinking about reforms’ and ‘international best practice’. There was also ‘significant scope’ to explore ‘the skills mix’ of the NHS, said Mr Barclay.

‘[The NHS workforce plan is] a combination to me of pay…, it’s also the number of staff and how that reflects in safe staffing, it’s also the NHS estate and what are the working conditions?’ he said.

‘And then it’s the technology – where are the bugbears and things that are not working?

‘And then wherever there’s some specific issues, such as on the safety side, or the health and wellbeing of our staff.’