Community pharmacy leaders have raised concerns about the impact of increasing pharmacist roles in general practice on the community pharmacist workforce.

Figures released this month show that the number of advanced pharmacist practitioner roles in general practice in England has nearly doubled in the last year, while the number of pharmacists has remained consistent.

And the total 2,632 pharmacists and advanced pharmacist practitioners employed by general practice in July 2023 compares to 1,515 pharmacists working in general practice in June 2019, when additional roles in general practice began to be funded under the Additional Roles Reimbursement Scheme (ARRS).

Responding to the increase in general practice pharmacist roles over the past year, Mr Kaye said that ‘the focus on recruitment to pharmacist roles in general practice is in marked contrast to continued NHS underinvestment in the community pharmacy sector’.

And he said that funding should be invested in community pharmacies to enable them to provide patient services.

‘For example, siting Structured Medication Reviews principally in GP practices means the opportunity has so far been missed to fully mobilise the community pharmacy network to reduce patient harm and achieve better value for health systems by tackling waste,’ he said.

He added: ‘To achieve true transformation, improve access to services and deliver a more clinical role for community pharmacy in primary care, core funding must be addressed and we should be allowed to access ARRS funding too.

‘The current flow of funding, which exacerbates workforce shortages in the community sector, makes no sense at all.’

Malcolm Harrison, chief executive of the Company Chemists’ Association (CCA) said that ARRS recruitment was ‘fanning the flames of an already precarious workforce crisis in community pharmacy.’

He pointed to the recently published NHS Long Term Workforce Plan, which recognised the need for the ‘sustainable’ growth of the general practice and primary care network pharmacist workforce.

He added: ‘The NHS workforce plan recognises the worrying impact that ARRS recruitment into general practice has had on community pharmacy. We are keen to see details of how the extension of ARRS (as proposed by the workforce plan) will be carefully managed to mitigate its impact on pharmacies.

‘If the government and the NHS want pharmacies to take on more clinical workload to help recover access to primary care, they must ensure the continuation of this trend comes to a halt.’

In its long-term workforce plan published in June, NHS England (NHSE) said that it will seek to increase the number of non-GP direct patient care staff by around 15,000 by 2036/37.

But it said that the expansion would be ‘carefully managed’ and would consider the additional capacity required to staff roles across primary care.