The UK Government has rejected a recommendation for a specific pharmacy workforce plan, but has said it remains committed to ‘maximising the use of the skills’ of those in the sector.

The notion came within the government’s response to a Health and Social Care Committee report into recruitment, retention and training across health and social care.

Published last summer, the committee had stressed there was an opportunity to ‘better utilise’ the pharmacy workforce and said that an ‘integrated and funded workforce plan for pharmacy’ was required, and should be laid before parliament within a year.

Such a plan should ‘ensure that all pharmacists have adequate access to supervision, training and protected learning time, along with clear structures for professional career development into advanced and consultant-level practice’, the committee had suggested.

But this week, in a written response, the government has dismissed the need for a pharmacy-only workforce plan, and instead pointed to its upcoming NHS workforce plan.

‘We do not agree with this recommendation for a specific pharmacy workforce plan,’ the government said.

‘However, we are working across the system to ensure that the future role of the pharmacy workforce is considered as part of the Long-Term Workforce Plan, to be published later this year.’

But when asked for further information, including whether this wider workforce plan would include community pharmacists, the Department of Health and Social Care declined to comment.

Within its written response to the committee, the government said it did ‘agree with the ambition to better utilise the pharmacy workforce’.

It added that it was ‘committed to maximising the use of the skills of the whole pharmacy team in realising the vision’ set out in the Community Pharmacy Contractual Framework five-year deal.

In addition, it claimed ministers were ‘committed’ to supporting the career development of community pharmacy professionals and that the government was ‘working with employers and partners to deliver fulfilling roles across all sectors, for new and existing registrants’.

‘We are working on pathways for pharmacists to demonstrate post-registration capabilities, including advanced and consultant level practice,’ it added.

The government also pointed to the recently announced 3,000 funded places for independent prescribing to ‘upskill’ the existing pharmacist workforce. Though, as previously reported by The Pharmacist, there has been concerns about the fact that no funding will be made available to backfill trainees undertaking this qualification, or for their supervision.

In addition, new clinical skills training for community pharmacists was also highlighted by the government. Last month, registration opened for the training, which has seen Health Education England fund 10,000 places.

Furthermore, the government’s response also highlighted that NHS England is developing guidance to support the introduction of shared workforce models between primary care network (PCN) and other pharmacist employers.

Thorrun Govind, English pharmacy board chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, said the government’s response was ‘welcome’, but stressed ‘we must see this translate into action for the whole of pharmacy as part of the NHS Long-Term Workforce Plan’.

‘Pharmacy teams across the health service are under enormous pressure and if we want to recruit and retain the staff we need, it is vital they get the support they deserve,’ she added.

‘As well as investment for education and training, we know that pharmacy teams are looking for protected time to support their learning and development.

‘They also need continued access to wellbeing services and with potential cuts to funding, it remains to be seen how national programmes will work alongside integrated care systems to support their workforce.’