A new £4.5bn GP contract could intensify community pharmacists' worries that their peers might leave the sector by 'migrating' to work in practices, the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) has warned.

The NPA called for the 'clinical potential of all pharmacists [to be] liberated' after NHS England today (31 January) announced a five-year funding settlement that will pay 70% of a practice pharmacist's wage for each surgery during the deal's first 12 months.

The lobbying group warned that if community pharmacists are not granted an equivalent multi-year contract, the sector could see its numbers falling as pharmacists increasingly move into practice roles.

It said: 'Today’s announcement intensifies the dilemmas faced by community pharmacy owners who invest in training and development only to see people migrate to general practice. This is a risk that must be carefully managed, so that these new primary care workforce targets genuinely add to capacity.

'We want to see the clinical potential of all pharmacists liberated, especially those available without appointment at convenient hours, in community pharmacies right across the country. Investment in pharmacy based support can deliver benefits for many more patients, conveniently and at lower cost than pharmacists deployed in GP surgeries.'


Government must make better use of community pharmacy


The NPA called for a multi-year contract for community pharmacy to allow the sector to invest in services.

It said: 'This new contract gives GPs a five year settlement, and community pharmacy should have the same, so that pharmacy owners can plan ahead, with more confidence to invest in staff and services. Our sector has consistently delivered for patients and the NHS, and deserves a substantial and sustainable multi-year settlement.  We need this to be the basis upon which community pharmacy contract negotiations begin.'


Impact on existing pressures


The Company Chemists Association (CCA) also called for a multi-year settlement for community pharmacy and called for 'more clarity' on how the funding will affect the sector.

Its chief executive Malcolm Harrison said: 'As with all large-scale change, the nature of the implementation of this deal will be critical to its success.

'We are concerned about the potential impact on the community pharmacy workforce given existing pressures.  We hope that this five-year package will be mirrored by a similar long-term funding plan for the community pharmacy sector so that we have the certainty we need to fully play our part in this new system.'


Roles for all pharmacists in PCNs


The new GP contract will fund ‘an army’ of 20,000 more staff including pharmacists, physiotherapists, paramedics, physician associates, allowing GP practices to work together with other healthcare professionals as part of local ‘primary care networks’ (PCNs) serving 30,000-50,000 patients registered to practices.

The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) chief executive Simon Dukes encouraged the sector to integrate themselves more closely with GP practices.

He said: ‘All pharmacies will need to take steps to work as closely with local GPs as they can…GPs will be bringing together local healthcare providers into the new networks and we must engage proactively with them and find ways to position ourselves within those PCNs.

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) English Pharmacy Board chair Sandra Gidley said PCNs would provide roles for community pharmacists not based in GP practices.

She said: 'General practice will be at the centre of PCNs, but the plan makes clear pharmacists do not need to be employed directly by the practice. This opens doors to new ways of providing care that involve pharmacists across the NHS, including community and hospital colleagues. It’s vital that all pharmacists have the opportunity to get involved with their local PCN.'

Ms Gidley called for an 'urgent' workforce strategy to allow pharmacists from all sectors to feel 'well equipped to deliver high quality healthcare'.

She added: 'Planning for this needs to account for capacity and capability, whilst maintaining the quality of current provision. It’s critical that there are sufficient education and training opportunities to develop the skills needed to face the challenges of the future.'