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PCN funding not enough to employ ‘appropriately experienced’ pharmacists

The funding for primary care networks to recruit pharmacists is insufficient to employ ‘appropriately experienced’ clinicians, a report by the pharmacists’ union  has revealed.

Under the new contract, NHS England is providing every network with 70% of funding for a new pharmacist in a bid to recruit 7,000 pharmacists by 2023/24.

However, the new report by the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) claims that networks may have to contribute more than the 30% that the contract states because NHS England has underestimated how much it costs to employ pharmacists with the requisite experience

NHS England has guaranteed to cover 70% of the costs of recruiting pharmacists to work in PCNs on total salaries 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 to £49,969 – 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.