Andrew Carruthers, chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society's Scottish pharmacy board, has hit back against demands to end the recruitment of community pharmacy workers to the general practice sector.
Mr Carruthers was commenting on a statement from Community Pharmacy Scotland earlier this week arguing that the current pace of migration of pharmacists and pharmacy technicians from local pharmacies to GP surgeries was "unsustainable" and that recruitment must be paused temporarily.
He said he was against restricting the supply of pharmacy professionals in the country to GP practices as this would impinge on individuals’ ability to make decisions about their careers and stop them working across multiple settings if they wish to.
He also argued that it is important pharmacists are present “wherever there are medicines,” whether in community pharmacies, hospital pharmacies or GP surgeries.
“Ensuring patients have access to pharmacists in all settings is an important part of delivering safe and effective care,” Mr Carruthers said.
“Many pharmacists have benefitted and continue to benefit from working in multiple settings, and they should be supported to make choices that support their professional development aspirations.”
CPS operations director Matt Barclay this week said the pharmacy sector had seen 600 whole-time equivalent pharmacists and 300 WTE pharmacy technicians leave to work in general practice in the last three years.
He claimed that “workforce shift” had taken place without any “planning to account for the needs of hospital or community pharmacy services.”
Mr Carruthers countered that pharmacy workforce planning was needed to take account of each pharmacy sector as well as "skill mix requirements and workforce changes resulting from new services and digital improvements".
“We also need better use of pharmacy teams, better skill mix and better use of technology to help reduce the wider issues and pressures that are impacting on NHS services,” he said.
“It is also important to promote pharmacy as a career to bring more people into the profession.”
Meanwhile, the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies said it was “fully supportive” of Community Pharmacy Scotland’s position that the recruitment of workers from pharmacy to general practice ends, insisting it had caused a shortage of pharmacists within the community sector in the country.
“The problem is equally acute in England and Wales where GP surgeries are hiring pharmacists for primary care support roles,” an AIMp spokesperson said, revealing that the organisation is talking to NHS England and Improvement about the issue.
“This is putting extra strain on a sector already having to cope with the impact of the pandemic and offering their normal services and being asked by the NHS to supply further treatments and procedures.
“The GPs must call at least a temporary halt so we can continue to consult with the NHS and agree a strategy.”