HEE will be responsible for health care workforce planning and development across England. At the local level, Local Education and Training Boards (LETBs) accountable to HEE will commission education and training as well as be responsible for workforce planning for specific geographical areas. There are three LETBs emerging in London and a further 11 reported across the rest of England. The LETBs will be health care provider lead and will share approximately £4.8 billion of the current NHS budget for education and training. The LETBs will be supported by the CfWI, which will provide an overall profile of the health care workforce.
Workforce planning and development in Scotland and Wales is the responsibility of the devolved administrations. The Scottish Government s health directorate provides central management of the NHS that oversees the work of 14 area NHS boards. These boards plan and deliver health services for people in their area. The Welsh Assembly Government is responsible for the delivery of the NHS in Wales and seven local health boards are responsible for planning, securing, and delivering all health care services in their areas.
Approaches to workforce planning
Traditional workforce planning in pharmacy (and indeed the other health care professions) has tended to focus on trends in the supply of and demand for pharmacists. However, it is becoming harder to forecast workforce supply and demand, particularly given the long lead times needed to train pharmacists. Perhaps the question of whether pharmacy has been able to accurately plan its workforce is the wrong one, as it can never be an exact science. A better question might be: How useful is workforce planning in delivering outcomes for patients? Steps must therefore be taken to measure outcomes for patients and to increase flexibility to change workforce skills more quickly in response to changes in patterns of disease and treatment. Such a change can be achieved by a stronger competence-based approach in all training, which recognise general and advanced levels of skills and enable pharmacy staff to acquire new skills for new tasks in a shorter period of time.
A strong voice
The planning and development of the overall health care workforce must be integrated, rather than just looking at the needs of each professional group in isolation. For instance, training of overlapping general skills across the professions can be shared. Much can also be learnt from other health care professions in Great Britain, such as medicine. In 2007 the inquiry into Modernising Medical Careers made a number of recommendations in the interest of the health and wealth of the nation  so that medical education and training could aspire to excellence, including:
Shared principles on postgraduate medical training,
Consensus on the role of doctors at various career stages,
Subjecting health service workforce planning and commissioning to external scrutiny, and
Developing a mechanism for providing coherent advice by the profession (i.e. strong leadership for the entire profession).
MEE was formed following the inquiry. The RPS has a strong voice, and it led the pharmacy profession s response to important consultations that affect the quality, recognition, and supply of the pharmacy workforce, including the work of the Modernising Careers Programme Board, proposed government changes to Higher Education, and settlement of migrants and the European Commission s green paper Modernising the Professional Qualifications Directive. Evidence has also been submitted to the Health Select Committee inquiry into education, training, and workforce planning.
Supporting the evidence base
The future of pharmacy is dependent on the profession s ability to generate a robust body of evidence to inform workforce development. For instance, evidence of an imbalance in the number of pharmacists could inform a number of measures, including altering the number of training commissions. Workforce intelligence has provided insight, but needs to be more than just analysis (e.g. a headcount of the number of pharmacy staff). Further evidence that the pharmacy workforce is fit for purpose is also needed. The General Pharmaceutical Council accredits schools of pharmacy degree programmes, but do newly qualified pharmacists meet the needs of patients?
The RPS aspires to be the national body that members of the profession, the public, and the government go to for advice about all aspects of the pharmacy workforce by:
Engaging with the whole profession to ensure that the RPS is the authoritative voice on workforce development for pharmacy across England, Scotland, and Wales.
Informing the development and application of workforce policy through facilitation of research and provision of robust pharmacy workforce intelligence.
Supporting implementation of solutions, which deliver a capable, flexible, and adaptable workforce that is able to improve productivity, performance, and health outcomes
The RPS has been working closely with MPC and the CfWI to facilitate effective workforce planning and development. It will be important that the RPS influence HEE/LETBs and the GB s devolved administrations to make the right decisions about planning the pharmacy workforce. In partnership with the CfWI, the RPS is forming a workforce engagement group of key stakeholders and partners to maintain oversight of the pharmacy workforce by scrutinising workforce plans, facilitating research, promoting opportunities, and mitigating risks for the pharmacy workforce. The RPS also is also tackling important workforce issues (such as professional empowerment) via its English, Scottish, and Welsh Pharmacy Boards.
The pharmacy workforce has come a long way in 10 years - consultant pharmacists, pharmacist prescribers, and up-skilled pharmacy technicians have all emerged. The next 10 years will be challenging, but new opportunities are already on the horizon.
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