The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) and the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) have joined nearly 40 organisations to call on the government to publish the long-awaited NHS workforce plan.

The plan is set to put forward solutions to address NHS understaffing and was expected to be published imminently, but has been rumoured to be delayed due to concerns about how much it would cost to implement.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, professional bodies, trade unions and patient groups have expressed their ‘dismay’ at the continued delay.

‘None of your policy commitments on health can be achieved unless we address the chronic workforce shortage,’ they wrote to Rishi Sunak, while urging him to act ‘by publishing a sustainable plan immediately’.

The letter continued: ‘Across all sectors, professions, specialities, condition pathways and services there are mass vacancies and insufficient numbers of staff to meet current, let alone future, population need.

‘It will take time to resolve this situation, which is why the delay in acting to address the workforce crisis is so damaging. The sooner we start to train and recruit more staff, and act to retain those already serving the public, the sooner we will see improvements in healthcare.’

Many of the organisations putting their name to the letter had been involved in the development of the workforce plan and ‘want it to succeed’, the letter emphasised.

‘We want to be able to welcome it if it provides the long-term vision needed and clearly [commits] to funded workforce expansion,’ it read, urging MR Suank to ‘please act now’.

Thorrun Govind, RPS England board chair, signed the letter, along with Mark Koziol, PDA chair, Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, and representatives from Unison, Asthma and Lung UK, the Stroke Association and other patient and professional groups.

Ms Govind said that the range of health and care leaders backing the letter ‘shows just how important it is that the government acts now to support our workforce’.

‘It is vital that we recruit and retain the staff we need so we can keep looking after patients,’ she said.

She noted that when the RPS met with NHS England in January, ‘pharmacy leaders called for the plan to include the whole of pharmacy and to recognise the increasing role of pharmacist independent prescribers in our health service’.

‘With teams under pressure across the system, this workforce plan also needs to support staff retention, secure protected time for learning and development, and ensure continued access to wellbeing services,’ she added.

Last month, the UK Government rejected the Health and Social Care Committee’s recommendation for a specific pharmacy workforce plan, but said that the pharmacy workforce would be considered as part of the Long-Term Workforce Plan.

Malcolm Harrison, chief executive of the Company Chemists’ Association (CCA), recently said that the plan must think about how to best use and coordinate the existing pharmacist workforce across different systems, including general practice, PCNs and community pharmacy.

In response to The Pharmacist's request for comment, the Department of Health and Social Care pointed to health secretary Steve Barclay's comments on the BBC's Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg programme this weekend, in which he said that the workforce plan was coming 'shortly' and that 'a huge amount of work' was going on within government on growing the domestic workforce.