Refugee pharmacists in Wales could be offered new route to return to practice

In its workforce plan, Health Education and Improvement Wales has committed to "exploring the feasibility and priority" of creating a registration pathway for displaced pharmacy professionals with refugee status.
pharmacist looking through medicines drawer

Pharmacists with refugee status living in Wales could be offered a new pathway to return to practice, as part of a workforce plan for pharmacy in the country.

In its ‘Strategic Pharmacy Workforce Plan‘, published on 26 June 2023, Health Education and Improvement Wales (HEIW) said that it had identified a “gap in provision with HEIW unable to respond effectively to requests to a pathway to registration for refugees living here who are pharmacy registrants overseas”.

As a result, HEIW has committed to “exploring the feasibility and priority of refreshing ‘return to practice’ packages, developing pharmacy apprenticeships, undertaking international recruitment programmes, and creating a pathway to registration in Wales for displaced pharmacists and pharmacy technicians with refugee status”.

HEIW said that developing a strategic pharmacy workforce plan became a priority during 2022/2023 for five “compelling” reasons, including: a change to pharmacist training; a need to improve the wellbeing of the pharmacy workforce; and a requirement to maintain access to pharmacy services for the public and patients.

The report includes data that show the number of short-notice temporary closures of pharmacies in Wales topped 2,000 in 2022/2023 for the first time. It added that there were 2,106 closures in 2022/2023, compared with 1,782 in 2022/2021.

“We have reached a position in the last two years where it has not been possible to sustain access to the volume and quality of pharmacy services for our population that we would wish to,” HEIW said in the plan.

“In Wales, there are examples of pharmacy services having been reduced in both hospital and community. The trend of community pharmacy short notice temporary closures persists.”

Among the 31 actions included in the plan is a commitment to “develop an inclusive, strategic, all-Wales approach to promoting all pharmacy team careers”.

This will see the introduction of a short-term project to scope and develop a plan for increasing attraction into pharmacy roles, including school work experience, holiday placements and recruitment events in pharmacy.

It will focus on “ensuring the diversity of our workforce reflects the diversity of our communities including Welsh language schools, communities with high levels of deprivation and rural areas where pharmacy vacancies are particularly hard to fill”.

Another action is to “develop bespoke solutions to improve attraction and recruitment into pharmacy roles in areas where rurality is a specific challenge”.

In the plan, HEIW also said it will introduce a consultant pharmacist strategy in Wales.

The strategic workforce plan was published ahead of NHS England’s ‘Long term workforce plan’ on 30 June 2023, which committed to increasing the number of pharmacy training places by 50% in eight years.

MPs had previously called for a workforce plan specifically for pharmacy in England. However, this call was rejected by the government in April 2023.

Alex Howells, chief executive of HEIW, said the strategic workforce plan “will be a vehicle for driving radical change and comprehensive improvements in how we develop, value and support our pharmacy workforce, in recognition of the increasing clinical leadership role they play in caring for people using medicines, in a variety of settings”.

“The plan is an opportunity to equip pharmacy professionals with the skills and competence to take up their professional leadership role in relation to medicines use across the general health and social care workforce,” she added.

Commenting on the plan, Elen Jones, director for Wales at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, said: “Increasing the workforce numbers of pharmacy professionals in Wales is of course a key consideration within the HEIW workforce plan.

“One option included in their actions is to consider support for qualified professional registrants who come into Wales as refugees to develop their skills and knowledge to work safely and effectively in Wales.

“RPS Wales is committed to working with HEIW and colleagues in other organisations to address present and future workforce pressures and will be inputting on any scoping work that follows.”

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, July 2023, Vol 311, No 7975;311(7975)::DOI:10.1211/PJ.2023.1.190831

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