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.

The increase in advanced roles has brought the total number of full-time equivalent (FTE) pharmacist roles in general practice to 2,000 as of July 2023, once both roles are included.

Meanwhile, the headcount number of pharmacists working in general practice has decreased slightly since last summer, indicating that pharmacists are working more hours in general practice, more are working full-time or more hold multiple roles than last year.

According to the most recent general practice workforce statistics released by NHS Digital, there were 1,696 pharmacist and 304 advanced pharmacist practitioner FTE roles in general practices in England in July 2023.

This is nearly double the 168 FTE advanced pharmacist practitioners, and a slight increase from the 1,688 FTE pharmacists working in general practice, in July 2022.

The actual headcount of advanced pharmacist practitioners increased from 220 in July 2022 to 398 in July 2023.

But the headcount of direct patient care pharmacists decreased slightly from 2,241 in July 2022 to 2,225 in July 2023.

This compares to 1,515 pharmacists working in general practice in June 2019.

The general practice workforce statistics also indicate that there are nearly double the number of female pharmacists working within general practice than men.

In July 2023, there were 1,651 female pharmacists in general practice (249 advanced pharmacist practitioners and 1,402 pharmacists) compared to 910 male pharmacists (142 advanced pharmacist practitioners and 768 pharmacists).

Professor Claire Anderson, president of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS), said that the rise in advance pharmacist practitioners shows ‘how the profession is evolving and dedicated to progression’.

And she said that the increase in number of pharmacists working in general practice ‘reflects the important contribution they are making, fully using all their skills for the benefit of patients’ within a ‘multidisciplinary team approach to patient care’.

She added that the gender ratio of pharmacists working in general practice was consistent with the gender ratio of all registrants across the profession.

‘We continue to advocate for a diverse and inclusive pharmacy workforce and believe a mix of perspectives and experiences enriches patient care,’ she said, adding that the RPS remains ‘committed to supporting all pharmacists in all settings throughout their career’.

Laura Buckley, primary care lead at the Guild of Healthcare Pharmacists, described the increase in the total number of pharmacists working in general practice since 2019 as a ‘positive trend’.

‘It suggests that there is a growing recognition of the value pharmacists bring to primary care settings. Pharmacists can help with medication management, patient education, and preventive care, which are all crucial in general practice,’ she said.

And she added that it was ‘not uncommon to see more female pharmacists in healthcare professions’.

‘This phenomenon can be attributed to several factors, including historical trends, societal expectations, and educational opportunities. Women have been entering the healthcare field in greater numbers for years. Additionally, pharmacy programmes often have more female students.’

Ms Buckley added: ‘General practice might attract more female pharmacists due to its collaborative and patient-focused nature, which aligns with the communication and caregiving skills often associated with women.

‘However, it's important to recognise that both male and female pharmacists contribute significantly to healthcare, and diversity in the profession is valuable for addressing the diverse healthcare needs of the population. Efforts should be made to ensure equal opportunities and representation for all genders in healthcare professions.’

And Paul Day, director of the Pharmacists’ Defence Association, commented that ‘pharmacists can add value across the health system, and it is important that existing and potential pharmacists see a career with different roles and the opportunity to practice in a range of situations’, including general practice.

The publication of the new general practice statistics follows NHS England’s announcement earlier this year that it had reached its target of recruiting 26,000 roles under its Additional Roles Reimbursement Scheme (ARRS) ahead of schedule.

As of March 2023, 6,331 FTE pharmacists and 732 FTE advanced pharmacist practitioners had been recruited under ARRS to work in both general practice and primary care networks.

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

Leaders from the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) and the Company Chemists’ Association (CCA) have raised concerns about the impact of an increase in general practice roles on the community pharmacy workforce.