Local NHS teams must consider the impact that the continued recruitment of pharmacists and technicians into primary care networks (PCNs) might have on the delivery of community pharmacy services, the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) has warned.

In a letter, sent to Ed Waller today (22 October), NPA chief executive Mark Lyonette said that the body is aware of significant challenges facing pharmacy services as a result of a shortage of pharmacists and other members of staff.

The NPA asked NHS England to ‘urgently’ consider several proposals to tackle workforce shortages and ensure that healthcare provision continues to be maintained.

This comes as the number of full-time equivalent (FTE) pharmacists working in PCNs in England increased by 177% in September 2021, compared to the same month in the previous year.

In its quarterly report, published in September, NHS Digital said that 2,626 pharmacists were working in PCNs, which amounted to 1,679 more pharmacists than in September 2020.

The data also revealed that the number of PCN pharmacy technicians rose by almost six times between September 2020 and September 2021, from 95 to 562.

In the letter, Mr Lyonette said: ‘It is our view that the current workforce crisis across the United Kingdom is multifactorial, however the overarching factor in England is the lack of NHS investment in community pharmacy services over the past six years, which is described in an independent report by Ernst & Young.’

He added: ‘Despite this chronic underfunding, pharmacies continue to participate in commissioned services and invest in the training and development of pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and the rest of the pharmacy team.

‘Our members have worked very hard to insulate patients from the effects of staff shortages, but the situation is not sustainable.’

To help alleviate staff shortages in pharmacies and prevent endangering patient safety, Mr Lyonette called on the NHS to work with the employer bodies to ensure a consistent and adequate coverage of community pharmacy.

This would include local impact assessment to be carried out prior to any recruitment into PCNs/CCG sites.

He also called on the NHS to review the reimbursement and remuneration model for community pharmacy services to ensure that community pharmacy is sufficiently resourced to continue providing necessary services.