Number of PCN pharmacists up 11pc in three months

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Number of PCN pharmacists up 11pc in three months

The number of full-time equivalent (FTE) pharmacists working in primary care networks rose by 11 per cent in the three months to December 31, new NHS data suggests.

NHS Digital’s quarterly primary care network workforce report, published earlier today, shows there were 2,923 FTE pharmacists recorded as working in PCNs, up from 2,626 at the end of September and 1,375 at the end of 2020.

The total number of pharmacists recorded as working in PCNs stood at 3,010 at the end of 2021, up from 2,774 on September 31.

NHS Digital stresses that headcount totals “are unlikely to equal the sum of components, due in part to individuals working across multiple roles and areas”.

Of the seven NHS England & Improvement regions, the Midlands had the highest reported number of PCN pharmacists at 696, followed by London at 528.

The North West and South West had the least at 312 and 255 respectively.

Pharmacists are the single biggest FTE direct patient care cohort in the workforce, followed by social prescribing link workers (1,612). All 15 direct patient care cohorts saw an increase in the three months to December 2021.

Meanwhile, the number of FTE pharmacy technicians rose by 21 per cent to 682 in the three months to December 31.

The data is recorded by PCNs using the National Workforce Reporting Service, which is also used to compile data on the general practice workforce.

There are some gaps in the data due to incomplete recording by PCNs, particularly in earlier workforce reports.

However, NHS Digital says the “completeness and coverage of PCN workforce data is improving,” with 82 per cent of all 1,255 active PCNs now recording data on staff and contracted services.

Some community pharmacy trade bodies have warned that the sector is facing a workforce crisis that they claim is partly due to pharmacists leaving the sector for PCN positions and other NHS roles.

Earlier this month the Company Chemists’ Association published its analysis of the available workforce data, claiming that the figures suggest a “shortfall” of 3,000 community pharmacists has developed in the last five years.

It based its analysis on the GPhC register and on Health Education England’s community pharmacy workforce report, which suggested that while the number of community pharmacists has risen since 2017 the number of vacant positions is also increasing significantly.

However, other bodies such as the Pharmacists’ Defence Association have expressed scepticism towards these arguments. 

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