NHS England (NHSE) has released optional guidance on shared workforce models for pharmacists, although the Company Chemists’ Association (CCA) has warned that complexity could hinder their uptake.

The guidance, published last week, sets out optional workforce models that community pharmacies and hospital pharmacy departments may wish to consider in collaboration with primary care networks (PCNs).

According to NHSE, the business benefits of shared workforce models include improved recruitment and retention, maintaining access to community pharmacies and greater resilience to workforce changes.

The CCA welcomed the publication of the guidance, which it was consulted on. However, Malcolm Harrison, the association’s chief executive, said that shared workforce models on their own were ‘unlikely to reverse the workforce shortages that have developed over the past few years’.

He added: ‘The experience of our members has shown that shared employment models can become very complex, which may inhibit widespread uptake of some of the contractual models proposed.’

The NHSE guidance provides a process overview for pharmacists implementing a shared workforce model, along with key considerations, training requirements and illustrative examples.

The document also states that each of the contractual and operational models carry ‘a range of commercial and legal risks’.

Paul Day, director for the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA), expressed disappointment at the scope of the guidance, insisting that it should have been wider.

‘There is much more to making sure an employment relationship is going to be workable in practice than those aspects covered in the optional guidance, and it is a disappointment that NHS England has chosen to develop suggestions with input from employer and owner organisations only,’ he said.

According to Mr Day, the PDA would have preferred a ‘fair work’ approach to the guidance, with ‘tripartite’ involvement – government, employer and employee representation – offering ‘all individuals an effective voice, opportunity, security, fulfilment and respect’.

Such an approach, he said, would ‘balance the rights and responsibilities of employers and workers’ and ‘generate benefits for individuals, organisations and society’.

The guidance does, however, list a number of potential benefits for pharmacist employees, including improved job satisfaction, greater flexibility, professional development opportunities and job variety from portfolio working (where someone works for several different organisations at the same time).

A panel discussion at the recent King’s Fund conference covered the subject of portfolio working, with Patricia Wright, a pharmacist and chief executive of the Hillingdon Hospitals NHS Trust, suggesting that pharmacists spending time working within different settings – including community, general practice and hospital – could help them ‘learn different ways of working’ rather than ‘stealing [workforce] from each other’.