NHS education body funds research into curbing pharmacy technician ‘attrition’

Two large-scale surveys of registered pharmacy technicians aim to understand the workforce and look at career commitment and job satisfaction.
Pharmacist holding medicine box in pharmacy drugstore.

Health Education England (HEE) has commissioned researchers at the University of Manchester to study pharmacy technicians’ motivations for joining and leaving the profession, contract documents show.

Two contracts, worth a total of £98,000, set out plans for the university’s Centre for Pharmacy Workforce Studies to conduct “large-scale” surveys of registered pharmacy technicians that will “support delivery of HEE’s five-year Pharmacy Technician and Pharmacy Support Staff Workforce Development Strategy”.

The workforce strategy, published in March 2021, set out five priorities, including to “understand the demographics, diversity, distribution and attrition” of the pharmacy technician workforce, and to forecast the number of pharmacy technicians needed in the future “to inform the workforce pipeline and trainee numbers”.

According to the contract documents, published on 7 September 2022, one survey “will investigate motivations of people choosing a career as a pharmacy technician” and will “include questions on demographics; sources of advice, support, and encouragement/discouragement for pursuing a pharmacy technician/healthcare career; career motivations … and alternative healthcare careers considered”.

Meanwhile, a second survey will “measure those factors which may contribute to a pharmacy technician leaving a healthcare career” and “will ask about intention to leave as well as career commitment and job satisfaction”.

The survey “will provide insights into reasons why pharmacy technicians consider leaving their professional register and allow the supplier to devise recommendations for interventions to address future attrition”, the contract document adds, noting that the survey will require a large sample “or indeed a census of pharmacy technicians on the GPhC register with a registered address in England”.

The research follows HEE publishing a report on England’s community pharmacy workforce, which revealed a decrease in the number of technicians from 7,901 in 2017 to 7,768 in 2021. The pharmacy technician vacancy rate was also found to have increased from 4% to 7% during that time.

However, the latest data from the General Pharmaceutical Council show that there were 20,769 pharmacy technicians registered in England in 2021/2022, an increase from 19,500 in 2017/2018.

Claire Steele, president of the Association of Pharmacy Technicians UK, welcomed the research, adding: “Pharmacy technicians are in demand more than ever before as we enter the post pandemic world, the ambition to ensure care is delivered as close to home as possible and the valuable contribution pharmacy technicians bring as part of the wider multidisciplinary team.

“There is a need to ensure the future pipeline of pharmacy technicians is robust and that strategies are developed to support pharmacy technicians throughout their careers. We look forward to reviewing the outputs from this work.”

The researchers are expected to finalise a report on the first survey’s findings by the end of January 2023, while a report on the second survey will follow in March 2023.

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, September 2022, Vol 309, No 7965;309(3965)::DOI:10.1211/PJ.2022.1.157041

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