The new general medical services (GMS) contract has put ‘strain’ on Scottish community pharmacy as people leave the sector to become practice pharmacists, a pharmacy representative body has said.

In its written response to a General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) enquiry into pharmacy staffing levels, Community Pharmacy Scotland (CPS) said yesterday (18 October) that the current GMS contract is a ‘major cause of loss of pharmacists and pharmacy technicians’ working in pharmacies.

British Medical Association (BMA) Scotland’s GP committee chair Dr Andrew Buist said that the new contract will increasingly see GPs supported by  pharmacists and pharmacy technicians to help them tackle ‘unsustainable’ workloads.

The Pharmacist contacted the Scottish Government for comment.


‘Outstrip’ pharmacists supply


CPS public affairs officer Caroline Rooks said that the amount of new posts for pharmacists and pharmacy technicians in GP practices may ‘outstrip the supply of qualified pharmacists in Scotland’.

She told The Pharmacist today (19 October): ‘We have seen experienced people leaving community and hospital settings to work in GP practices and this is beginning to place a strain on staffing in parts of the country.

‘We feel that the unintended impact on community and hospital pharmacy workforces wasn’t fully considered when the GMS contract was being drafted and it is also known that other professions such as physiotherapists are facing the same pressures’.

Under the GMS contract, the Scottish Government invested £12m in 2017/18 to ‘allow more pharmacists and pharmacy technicians to work in general practice’ to reduce GP workload and improve patient care. Additional funding was also given to practices to increase the number of pharmacists and pharmacy technicians providing pharmacotherapy services.


‘Unsustainable’ workloads


CPS said that the community pharmacy workforce shortages have resulted in pharmacies relying on locums, with some forced to pay inflated rates. It also highlighted that pharmacies struggle to attract unregistered staff, such as dispensers, as they cannot afford to offer competitive salaries.

Ms Rooks added: ‘We do not want to see any of the three core pharmacy services in Scotland suffer because of a shortage in the workforce.

‘Community pharmacies are an essential part of the healthcare system and we need to take action now before this pressure becomes an acute problem.’

Dr Buist told The Pharmacist: ‘Workloads in general practice have been increasing at a rate that is unsustainable over the last decade or more as practices across Scotland face significant recruitment gaps, leaving too few GPs to meet the needs of patients.

‘If general practice is to survive for the future, change is required to support GPs and once again make being a GP an attractive career choice for young doctors.

‘This will help to return GP workload to manageable levels so that GPs can spend more time with the patients that require a GP’s skills.’