Funding provided for primary care networks (PCNs) to recruit pharmacists is insufficient to employ ‘appropriately experienced’ clinicians, a report by the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) has revealed.
GP practices may have to contribute more than 30% of a clinical pharmacist’s salary themselves, as the network funding underestimates the current earnings of practice-based pharmacists, the pharmacy union said.
As part of the new network contract DES, national funding has been secured to employ 22,000 additional practice staff – including around 7,000 pharmacists – by 2023/24.
NHS England has guaranteed to cover 70% of the costs of recruiting pharmacists to work in PCNs in bands 7 to 8a, up to a maximum of £37,810.
The PDA report, published this week (27 August), found that 71% of 500 pharmacists working in general practice in England were paid a salary equivalent to band 8a (defined as £43,042 – £49,969/ self-employed >£24 to £28/hr) or above.
More than a quarter (27%) reported salaries at bands 8b, 8c or above – equivalent to £49,970 or more.
A PDA spokesperson said: ‘[This] contrasts with the funding provided for PCN pharmacists posts, suggesting that practices may need to consider contributing more than 30% of a band 7 salary to secure an appropriately experienced pharmacist.’
An NHS England spokesperson said: ’We recognise the skills and experience clinical pharmacists can bring to general practice and that is why we have agreed with our GPC colleagues to fund 70% of the cost of recruiting pharmacists in bands 7 to 8a up to a maximum of £37,810.
‘An extra £1.799 billion is being invested in PCNs by 2023-24, of which £891million will be available to recruit 20,000 more healthcare professionals over the next five years to support GPs, including pharmacists.’
This week, it was revealed that PCNs are ‘reluctant’ to recruit additional staff like pharmacists because of uncertainty around VAT issues and concerns around funding.
Meanwhile, NHS England has said that CCGs should reallocate PCN funding for additional roles if practices fail to use it.
‘Lack of integration’
The report also found that 20% of 615 practice pharmacists across the UK did not agree that they are considered leaders on medicines or prescribing by the rest of the practice team.
However, more than three-quarters (77%) of 614 respondents to the question considered their role as including leadership on promoting safe prescribing and 76% of 616 respondents who answered felt that they were regarded as the ‘expert in medicines’ by patients.
One in five (20%) of the 616 respondents to the question also felt they were not ‘adequately supported’ with training and supervision in their role, the PDA said.
Reasons for this inadequate support included a ‘lack of integration’ into practices – particularly when working across more than one – as well as a ‘lack of GP support or understanding as to the need for supervision’, the report added.
Funding for clinical supervision and access to training were also factors, with over 50% of practising GP pharmacists in England without access to the ‘clinical pharmacist’ training pathway, according to the report.