One in four pharmacists would retrain as doctors, survey by The Pharmaceutical Journal finds

Exclusive: Of 1155 respondents to The Pharmaceutical Journal’s salary and job satisfaction survey, 23% said they would retrain as doctors under the government’s potential fast-track training system.

Doctor taking notes on patient

Just under a quarter of pharmacists have said they would retrain as doctors, if government proposals to introduce fast-track retraining — as a result of the UK leaving the EU — are introduced.

Participants in The Pharmaceutical Journal’s 2020 salary and job satisfaction survey were asked: “Would you retrain as a doctor if government plans for a three-year conversion course for pharmacists go ahead?”

Of 1155 respondents, 23% (266 respondents) said they would retrain as doctors, but among community pharmacists, 29% (122 respondents) said they would like to change career, as would 27% (43 respondents) of general practice/primary care network pharmacists. Only 16% (65 respondents) of hospital pharmacists said they would take the chance to retrain as doctors.

There were 65 respondents from the pharmaceutical industry: of these, 23% (15 respondents) said they would retrain.

In February 2020 the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said the government was considering introducing fast-track training for healthcare professionals, including pharmacists. At the moment, doctors must complete 5,500 hours of training, for a minimum of five years, as set out in Article 24 of EU Directive 2005/36/EC.

The potential new system would mean that suitably qualified non-medical health practitioners would not have to complete the full timescale; instead, they could “complete training based on their experience and qualifications, rather than fixed timeframes”, the government said at the time.

“Leaving the EU means we have more control over the training our healthcare professionals receive,” a spokesperson for the DHSC told The Pharmaceutical Journal on 30 July 2020.

“We want to make it easier for our excellent healthcare professionals to change their career pathways, while providing greater flexibility for the NHS to meet its changing workforce needs over time.”

No changes to training pathways will be implemented before the end of the year, and any new courses would need to be approved by the relevant regulator, the DHSC said.

Gail Fleming, director for education and professional development at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, said: “Following the pandemic, our healthcare system can’t afford to divert staff from one profession to another.”

Pharmacists “are proud of the vital role they play within our NHS. We should be valuing the unique set of skills pharmacists have, especially as the profession continues to play an incredibly important part of supporting patients’ care during COVID-19”, she added.

”Delivering the best possible care for patients means making the most of services that pharmacists provide, joined up with contributions from other health professions to work effectively within multidisciplinary teams.

“It is important that we see support and investment in a new approach to training early careers pharmacists, which will allow them to develop through a rewarding career pathway of continued professional development.”


The Pharmaceutical Journal salary and satisfaction survey 2020 included 1,451 pharmacists and was analysed by independent academic statisticians at the University of Aberdeen. In the survey, community pharmacists were under-represented compared with all Royal Pharmaceutical Society members (35% vs. 50%). Hospital and primary care pharmacists were over-represented (33% vs. 23% and 13% vs. 6%, respectively). Industry pharmacists were slightly over-represented (5% vs. 6%), while academic pharmacists were roughly comparable (3% vs. 3%). The results displayed are for non-locum pharmacists only.

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ August 2020, Vol 305, No 7940;305(7940):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2020.20208232

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