English Pharmacy Board chair Thorrun Govind has said pharmacy must be supported by the Government if the profession is to play a central role in plans to clear the backlog of care and help the NHS recover post-pandemic, as recommended in a health and social care committee report.
The Government has until February to respond to the report’s recommendations, which include a national health and care recovery plan encompassing primary, community and social care and mental health as well as improved workforce planning.
The report, which was published last week, expressed deep concerns about the impact of increasing pressure on emergency care, with 999 calls at an all-time high and staff off sick with Covid, as the government attempts to address a record 5.8 million-strong waiting list for elective care.
Committee chair Jeremy Hunt warned: “The Government’s recovery plans risk being thrown off course by an entirely predictable staffing crisis.
“The current wave of Omicron is exacerbating the problem, but we already had a serious staffing crisis, with a burnt-out workforce, 93,000 NHS vacancies and no sign of any plan to address this."
Ms Govind called for "investment in pharmacy as part of a comprehensive workforce strategy,” arguing that this would help “clear the immediate backlog of care from the pandemic and support the NHS recovery in the longer-term".
“Pharmacists and pharmacy teams across the health service have shown enormous dedication to patient care throughout the pandemic. This latest committee report highlights once again the urgent need for robust workforce planning and support,” she said.
“With winter pressures and a spike in Covid-related staff absences, this also means prioritising essential work, cutting unnecessary bureaucracy and ensuring pharmacists can take adequate rest breaks.
“The pandemic has shown just how important it is that the Government and NHS support collaboration across health professions to maintain patient access to care.”
The committee is also holding inquiries into the reasons staff leave the health and social care sectors and the challenges facing general practice over the next five years.
In its response to the latter, the RPS made several recommendations including increasing referrals through the community pharmacist consultation service, considering the introduction of a Pharmacy First-type scheme for minor ailments in England, raising the number of independent pharmacist prescribers, investing more money in pharmacy education and training and increasing the role of pharmacists working in general practice and primary care networks.