This is a campaign letter for the 2021 RPS national pharmacy board elections. The views expressed in this letter belong to the author. Find out more about the RPS elections.
I note with interest that the inclusion of pharmacists on the Home Office’s shortage occupation list (SOL) in March 2021 has prompted renewed questions about the future of the workforce. This topic was explored in an article by The Pharmaceutical Journal (9 April 2021). I am sure that many will realise that adding pharmacists to the SOL indicates that there are not enough pharmacists to fill all of the roles needed in the UK and, therefore, makes it easier for pharmacists from abroad to apply for a visa through the UK’s immigration system.
“Hello, my name is Jay and I am an overseas qualified pharmacist…”
After qualifying in South Africa as pharmacist, this year I celebrated my 20th anniversary of being in the UK. At the turn of the century, the UK pharmacy degree changed from a three-year degree to a four-year degree (plus one year). This change created a shortage at the time, which saw many like-minded individuals make a move to the UK — some temporary and some permanent.
Why is this issue important to me? We are on the verge of having new educational standards from the General Pharmaceutical Council, delayed preregistration exams, provisional registration pharmacists, universal foundation training for pharmacist and the potential for all pharmacists to become independent prescribers etc. As the professional membership body for pharmacists and pharmacy, it is time for the RPS to call for a pause to review the unintended consequences of some of these reactions. Further, protected learning time for professional development is crucial to upskill the existing workforce to meet new healthcare demands from patients and the NHS.
Although university admissions are increasing, it appears that the route to becoming a practising pharmacist is incredibly complex. Additionally, low pay together with high pressure and stress associated with some roles, results in many leaving the profession soon after starting. Notwithstanding the numerous newly created pharmacist positions, such as those in primary care networks, GP practices etc, which are all pulling from the same pool.
The RPS must develop a detailed workforce strategy with the NHS and other employers. This must include appropriate pay structures, recognising the unique skill set of pharmacists and ensuring excellent workplace conditions. We need to be able to retain and retrain our workforce.
I do not believe adding pharmacists to the SOL alone will make a long-term difference to workforce issues. At best, it will stick a plaster on, until it gets ripped off again…
Jay Badenhorst election candidate, English Pharmacy Board, Royal Pharmaceutical Society