Think-tanks call for better use of pharmacists to help the NHS workforce crisis

Think-tanks call for better use of pharmacists to help the NHS workforce crisis

March 21, 2019

The Health Foundation, King’s Fund and Nuffield Trust have published a report about the health and care workforce, setting out a series of policy actions that they would like to see at the heart of the workforce implementation plan due to be published by NHS England later this year.

The report called for urgent action to prevent the current workforce crisis from worsening, particularly in the nursing and general practice sectors, where problems are especially severe. The Government’s target is to recruit an additional 5,000 GPs by 2021/22, and while the report agreed that national efforts to increase the number of GPs must continue, it acknowledged that this is not enough to meet the growth in demand for primary care. It suggested that one way to achieve this could be through making greater use of multidisciplinary teams, including pharmacists and physiotherapists.

For pharmacy, the report states: ‘A major contribution to meeting patient demand could be made through recruiting at least 3,000 more pharmacists and 6,000 physiotherapists into general practice’.

It also discussed NHS England’s current Clinical Pharmacists in General Practice programme, which is aiming to deliver one pharmacist per 30,000 patients by 2020. Recent reductions in eligibility criteria within the programme now allows practices to apply for this support if they aim to have one full-time equivalent (FTE) pharmacist per 15,000 patients, down from the initial 30,000, while some are already looking to reach one pharmacist per 10,000 patients. The report suggests that initial targets should aim for at least one FTE pharmacist per 15,000 patients nationally.

Other key recommendations include:

  • An extra investment of £900 million a year into the budget of Health Education England by 2023/24;
  • Increasing nursing numbers by providing student nurses in England ‘cost of living’ grants and covering the cost of tuition fees; and
  • Doing more to help staff maintain a healthy work-life balance, through greater access to part-time working, fair pay, and compassionate leadership.

Simon Dukes, PSNC Chief Executive, said:

“As this important report rightly recognises, workforce is a key issue for the NHS as the training and wellbeing of health professionals is central to the quality of care that they can give. We are pleased that the report highlights both the need to make the most of multidisciplinary working to ease pressure in primary care, and the unique skills of pharmacists. We very much agree with the authors that the network of community pharmacies offers possibilities for where services across a joined-up primary care team could be delivered, and we will continue to make the case for community pharmacies to do more to support their primary care colleagues. NHS England is looking specifically at workforce as it plans how it will deliver the NHS Long Term Plan, and we are pleased to be involved in the pharmacy stream of that work.”

Click here to read the report in full


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