Nearly one in five pharmacist roles vacant in parts of England, report finds

Exclusive: A survey has found a 9% full-time equivalent vacancy rate in community pharmacy across England.

Nearly one in ten full-time equivalent (FTE) pharmacist positions in England were vacant as of July 2020, a survey by the Community Pharmacy Workforce Development Group (CPWDG) has found.

The survey, which collected workforce information from 40% of community pharmacies, found a 9% FTE pharmacist vacancy rate across the country, rising to 15% and 18% in the South West and South East, respectively.

The CPWDG is hosted by the Company Chemists’ Association (CCA) and includes equal representation from the CCA, the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp) and the National Pharmacy Association (NPA).

The group’s report, ‘A review of the community pharmacy workforce: 2021 and beyond’, published on 2 June 2021, said the positions were vacant for around 26 weeks, on average.

The CPWDG’s report follows the addition of pharmacists to the Home Office’s shortage occupation list in March 2021.

During a call for evidence held prior to the role’s inclusion, two unnamed contributors said that they “struggled to source workers for these roles owing to the specific skillset and qualifications required”, particularly in the South East of England

Nick Kaye, NPA board member for the South West and vice-chair of the CPWDG, told The Pharmaceutical Journal: “The vacancy rate in the South West reflects the lack of pharmacy schools in the region and that many students tend to end up working in the area where they qualify and gravitate to the big conurbations.

“We are seeking to address this issue through offering placements and training, and make working in the South West seem more attractive to those entering the pharmacy profession.”

The report added that vacancy concerns “are not confined to pharmacists”, with pharmacy technician vacancies “open for around six months” on average.

“The capacity of community pharmacy starts with the number of people interested in joining the profession and efforts should be made to ensure an adequate supply of community pharmacy colleagues,” the report said.

It also cited concerns about retention of the existing workforce and recommended that professional bodies join other stakeholders, including higher education institutions and policy makers, to showcase community pharmacy as an “attractive career choice”.

The report also said that continuing professional development should be prioritised, with “significant efforts” needed to upskill the current workforce to become independent prescribers.

In 2019, the first Wales Community Pharmacy Workforce Survey found a vacancy rate of almost one in five in some areas of Wales.

That same year in Scotland, the Scottish Community Pharmacy Workforce Survey reported that there were an estimated 61.34 FTE vacant pharmacist positions.

READ MORE: There is an official shortage of pharmacists: what now?

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, June 2021, Vol 306, No 7950;306(7950)::DOI:10.1211/PJ.2021.1.88704

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