NHS England and Improvement is looking for suppliers to create a recruitment campaign to encourage people into NHS careers — including in the pharmacy sector — to help mitigate shortage issues.  

The contract notice, published on NHSE&I website this week (5 December), said that the successful supplier must ‘develop and deliver an England wide campaign to increase the attractiveness of careers in NHS health and justice roles and encourage individuals to apply for them’.  

The campaign has been launched as ‘hospitals, mental health services and community providers are now reporting a shortage of nearly 84,000 [full-time equivalent] staff’. 

‘The workforces are comprised of a wide range of roles, including pharmacy technicians/pharmacists,’ it added.  

Other healthcare roles the campaign will promote include healthcare support workers, nursing staff, general practitioners, advanced nurse practitioners and psychologists/psychiatrists.  

The campaign also includes promoting other non-health specialist roles in the justice system, including staff trained to work with children and young people, as well as ‘peer roles specifically for people with their own lived experience of the criminal justice system able to support others’, the notice said.  

The NHS contract, worth £70,000, will run from 14 January 2022 to 13 April 2022 and has been open for suppliers to apply from this week (5 December) until 27 December 2021. 

As part of the contract, the supplier will be expected to develop marketing materials for paid media activity and for partners and stakeholders to use. 

This includes providing strategy development, such as ‘proposition testing, reason to believe, key messages, call to action, testing language and tone of voice’.  

It will also include ‘recommendations on how to encourage people into Health and Justice roles in the wider context of the 'We are the NHS' campaign and staff shortages across the NHS.’. 

It comes after the Home Office added pharmacists, among other health and social care roles, the shortage occupation list (SOL) in March.  

Commenting on the new recruitment drive, Leyla Hannbeck, chief executive officer at the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp), said: ‘We have been highlighting to NHSE since February this year that there is a shortage of technicians and pharmacists caused by the NHS recruitment drive to PCNs affecting community pharmacies and hospitals as there is not an even playing field. 

‘Robbing staff from one part of the healthcare system to staff another part of the healthcare system will not work, particularly as pharmacies are at the end of the supply chain.  

‘Community pharmacists need to be there to put the medicines into the patients’ hands and offer healthcare advice on how to use them safely. This is done locally and without an appointment, unless the national shortage of pharmacists has caused the local pharmacy to have an unplanned closure.’ 

The Company Chemists’ Association (CCA), National Pharmacy Association (NPA), Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMP) and Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee met with senior NHS England and NHS Improvement officials in October, to discuss the current limited availability of pharmacists for community pharmacy roles. 

In November, data from NHS digital found the number of full-time equivalent (FTE) pharmacists working in Primary Care Networks (PCNs) in England increased by 177% in September 2021, compared to the same month in the previous year.