PCNs have been advised to ‘grow [their] own’ additional roles reimbursement scheme (ARRS) staff to help address recruitment challenges.

Speaking at Pulse PCN’s London live event, deputy chair of the BMA’s GP Committee in England Dr Kieran Sharrock suggested PCN workforce leads ‘think flexibly’ and put existing staff forward for further training when trying to fill ARRS roles.

Dr Sharrock, who is also a Lincolnshire GP, said that PCNs should identify current staff who could undergo ‘very minimal’ training to take on a new role.

‘Growing your own really is one of the things we have to do because we can’t just find a pharmacist, we can’t just find a nurse practitioner – there aren’t that many out there.’

And workforce leads should identify people already within their practice who have an interest in becoming a trainee nurse associate, he said, adding that these staff could free up practice nurses’ time by leading on childhood immunisations and smear tests.

This would also apply to health and wellbeing coaches, for which the training is also ‘minimal’, he added.

He told delegates: ‘Yes, that means they have to take time out to train, but in the long run it will save you some time.

He said: ‘For social prescribing link workers, the training is very minimal – it’s an online course and a commitment to sign up to some further training, then you’ve got a social prescribing link worker.’

Dr Sharrock noted that while this will not fill all the gaps in a PCN’s workforce, it may help existing staff to work better.

He also flagged that offering existing staff training and support is likely to help retain them.

It comes a week after NHS England reported that PCNs had recruited as many as 16,000 ARRS staff as of December 2021 towards the Government’s 26,000-by-2024 target.

However, RCGP analysis from only a few months before had put that number far lower – at 9,464 as of September 2021 – suggesting the Government risked failing to meet its target. The Department for Health and Social Care rejected this suggestion.

Meanwhile, analysis by the King's Fund found pharmacists recruited into primary care networks (PCNs) are experiencing confusion over the purpose of  their  roles as many are not being integrated into primary care teams properly.

A version of the story first appeared on The Pharmacists' sister publication, Pulse.