Primary care networks (PCNs) will be able to uplift the salaries of pharmacists recruited under the additional roles reimbursement scheme (ARRS) in line with the government’s latest NHS pay deal, but have not been given a funding increase to do so.

The move – confirmed by NHS England (NHSE) – means PCNs will be able to pay current ARRS staff more at the risk of having less money to hire further roles, with clinical directors suggesting they will need to revise their recruitment plans.

Director of the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) Paul Day welcomed the potential pay increase for practice-based pharmacists, but said that if the total funding for the scheme did not keep up with its costs, then the government was devaluing the scheme to patients.

In an update to the PCN DES earlier this month, NHSE confirmed that it will increase the maximum salary rates that a PCN could claim for reimbursement under the scheme from 1 July 2023.

The reimbursement rates are in line with the 5% consolidated increase in pay, worth at least £1,065, offered to Agenda for Change staff for 2023/24 following talks with striking health unions.

Top five most hired ARRS Rembursable amount before uplift Reimburseable amount after uplift
Clinical pharmacists £59,312 £62,340
Care coordinators £31,746 £33,396
Social prescribing link workers £38,187 £40,159
Pharmacy technicians £38,187 £40,159
First contact physiotherapists £59,312 £62,340

These figures do not include the inner or outer-High Cost Area Supplement (HCAS). Source: NHS England.

But the uplift will ‘not affect the overall value of a PCN’s overall Additional Roles Reimbursement Sum’, NHSE warned.

Mr Day said that it was ‘right that pharmacists employed under the additional roles reimbursement scheme (ARRS) should not be paid lower rates than colleagues elsewhere in the NHS’, saying that ‘to do otherwise would penalise those individuals and undermine the scheme’.

He added: ‘If government fail to keep the value of the scheme’s support in line with necessary increasing costs then they are deciding to reduce the value of the scheme to patients.’

Meanwhile, Dr Laura Mount, clinical director for Central and West Warrington PCN, told our sister title Pulse PCN that the failure to lift the total available funding will mean the PCN has scrapped plans to hire further roles.

‘We can pay people more but only from the same budget. This has also happened in previous years but with this year’s being 5%, we will need to revise recruitment plans as it’s [a] big chunk of the budget. We have decided against recruiting a mental health occupational therapist because of this,’ she said.

Dr Mount was also concerned that practices struggling to offer staff a 5% pay rise will lead to a discrepancy in uplifts between primary care’s ARRS staff and those employed by trusts.

A version of this article was first published on our sister title, Pulse PCN.