The Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) has offered a ‘mixed reaction’ to the community pharmacy pay intervention by the Welsh Government.

The chief pharmaceutical officer (CPhO) for Wales wrote to community pharmacy contractors last week offering an extra £3m, provided they gave at least a 4% pay increase to staff involved in the direct provision of NHS pharmaceutical services, taking effect from 1 April 2022.

CPhO Andrew Evans said the extra cash above the agreed Community Pharmacy Contractual Framework (CPCF) funding settlement for 2022/23 would increase funding to £157.2m – an increase of £6m from 2021/22.

However, the letter said that any member of staff whose base annual salary was more than £45,839 may receive a pay increase of less than 4% provided the increase was at least £1,400. And where pay increases were not applied, he said funding would be recovered from contractors.

The announcement followed confirmation in July by the Welsh health minister of a pay rise for NHS Wales staff.

However, the PDA noted that it was ‘unusual’ for a government to be ‘so closely involved in the pay of their suppliers’ employees’

It also pointed out that ‘some community pharmacy employers have a contractual right to a pay review at times of year that may not synchronize with the Government’s financial cycle, so this initiative may have different impacts at different employers.’

The PDA added said that the intervention ‘must not disrupt or attempt to bypass’ negotiations, and said trade unions should be involved in pay discussions.

The PDA continued: ‘While helpful in some instances, unlike trade union negotiations it does not restrict those employers from unilaterally deciding to try and reduce other aspects of reward in consequence.

‘This highlights why the better solution would be for the government in Wales to work effectively in social partnership with trade unions and employers and make it easier for unions in community pharmacy to collectively bargain on behalf of their member.’

The PDA also pointed out that the NHS pay award had been rejected by most of its member last month and was ‘likely’ to also be rejected by the employees represented by other trade unions.

It said the pay proposal, although described by government as a 4% increase, ‘actually provides pharmacists at some grades with as little as a 1.3% increase’ if their base annual salary is more than £45,839.

At the time, PDA members employed by the NHS rejected the pay proposal, 58% also confirmed that they would support the union taking industrial action if members of other unions were also planning to do so.

Meanwhile, PDA director Paul Day emphasised the context and consequences ‘need to be considered’.

Mr Day said: ‘While incentivising private community pharmacy contractors to increase pay by no worse than the government’s plans for their own employees is better than accepting that they may otherwise do worse than the NHS, this could also be seen as sending a message to those NHS employed pharmacists, who are also represented by the PDA, that the Welsh government is not listening to their response to the NHS pay proposal.

‘Some community pharmacy employers are part of large profit making multi-national corporations, who may have already decided to give this level of pay increase due to the pressures of recruitment and retention. In such scenarios the Welsh government are reimbursing that spending and this will prop up profit margins at those employers and not have any impact on pay rates. That the government would rather do that than redirect that same money towards improving the pay of their own NHS employees is also a choice by the minister which some pharmacists may question.’

At the time of the Welsh announcement, Eluned Morgan, minister for health and social services in Wales, said that community pharmacies across the country should receive ‘a fair, proportionate and equitable pay uplift’, even though the sector is not within the remit of the NHS Pay Review Body.

This comes after the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee reiterated its position in July that community pharmacy contractors also need urgent funding support following the news that NHS staff are to receive a pay rise,