Practices given more time to transfer clinical pharmacists to PCNs

GP practices have been given an extra month to transfer clinical pharmacists into primary care networks (PCNs), giving them a final chance to access improved funding to support staff in these roles.

Transfer deadline extended (Photo: Isabel Pavia/Getty Images)

Networks now have until 30 November to transfer staff employed through the clinical pharmacists in general practice scheme to the PCN additional roles recruitment scheme (ARRS), which started in July 2019.

The original deadline had been set for 30 September, however, the BMA has confirmed that NHS England wrote to LMCs last week to tell them that they would receive extra time, but only in ‘exceptional circumstances’. 

A new deadline means that practices may now have extra time to register clinical pharmacists to a scheme that is more financially attractive, with the ARRS package offering to pay a larger percentage of the costs of recruiting a clinical pharmacist.

Important role

It has also been confirmed that eligibility criteria for transfer have not changed, despite the extension. To quality for transfer a clinical pharmacist must have been working as part of the PCN team delivering the duties outlines in the network contract DES by 30 September, NHS England said. 

An NHSE spokeperson said: 'NHSE and Improvement were made aware of a number of scenarios in which the 30 September deadline was not met. Given the importance of this workforce as part of a multi-disciplinary PCN team and the more generous reimbursable arrangements for practices/PCNs, commissioners may, in exceptional circumstances, allow an extension to the transition by no later than 30 November 2019.

'This extension is to allow people more time to finalise the arrangements where a transition has been or was being agreed, rather than to allow further time to decide whether or not to transition.'

Preferential deal

Under the clinical pharmacists in general practice scheme, which aimed to employ 1,500 of these staff into GP practices by 2020/21, NHSE gave practices the opportunity to apply for funding to recruit and employ new staff.

Under the scheme, which was rolled out in January 2017, NHSE offered to pay 60% of the cost of recruiting and employing a clinical pharmacist in the first year, falling to 40% in year two and 20% in year three.

But PCNs can claim 70% reimbursement funding for a clinical pharmacist under the ARRS scheme, which sits within the new network DES conference. As a result, practices that fail to transfer their pharmacists risk losing out on a preferential support package. 

After 30 November, any clinical pharmacist who have not transitioned will not be counted as an exception to the workforce baseline figure, agreed by PCN clinical directors and their CCG at the end of March.

This means that under the additionality rules the FTE equivalent for these clinical pharmacists will need to be maintained by PCN member practices in order to claim reimbursement for PCN clinical pharmacists.

Flexible system

A BMA spokesperson said: 'The extension gives more time to practices and primary care networks to transfer existing pharmacists to the new scheme if they think this is the right thing for them.

'This is a good example of the system being flexible and ensuring all those who want to can benefit from the new funding arrangements.'

NHSE has promised to recruit 'an army' of 20,000 allied health professionals into general practice by 2023/24, including clinical pharmacists, social prescribers and paramedics. 

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