The five year contract deal for GPs announced on 31 January and its promise of further recruitment of pharmacists into general practice, could put further pressure on recruitment into community pharmacy.

The headline from the deal with the British Medical Association is a promise to recruit 20,000 physios, pharmacists and paramedics to work alongside stretched GPs, with funding coming from the extra £4.5bn the Government says it is going to invest in community services by 2023 under the terms of the NHS Long Term Plan published at the beginning of January.

Reaction from pharmacy was swift. Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee chief Simon Dukes said: “This funding deal gives us a very clear indication of the way in which the Government and NHS England want primary care services to develop. Progress will be made through multidisciplinary networks which have GPs at their heart and which deliver patient-focused care. 

“The scale of transformation is unprecedented, and GPs will benefit from being supported to deliver these changes with a five year funding package. This is exactly the approach the NHS must now take with community pharmacies so we too can play our part in improving local healthcare. 

He said pharmacies must engage proactively with the new networks, and that PSNC would work with the other national pharmacy organisations to facilitate this. 

The National Pharmacy Association said it welcomed the additional investment in primary care, and the recognition that pharmacists are an indispensible part of the primary care workforce. Pledging its support for members in engaging with primary care networks, it suggested the announcement also added to the dilemmas faced by community pharmacy owners who invest in training and development only to see people migrate to general practice. “This is a risk that must be carefully managed, so that these new primary care workforce targets add to capacity,” the NPA said, adding “investment in pharmacy-based support can deliver benefits for many more patients, conveniently and at a lower cost than pharmacists deployed in GP surgeries.” It suggested community pharmacy should have a similar five year settlement. 

Given many of the first responses to the launch of the plan highlighted live issues like staff shortages, and the potential for a no deal Brexit to make things worse, it remains to be seen whether the additional staff can be delivered. Those with slightly longer memories will recall it was less than five years ago that the Government promised to recruit 5,000 more GPs.

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