Almost 600 people have applied for the General Pharmaceutical Council’s (GPhC’s) Overseas Pharmacists Assessment Programme (OSPAP) in the 12 months since pharmacists were added to the Home Office’s shortage occupation list.
Figures provided to The Pharmaceutical Journal by the GPhC show that between 5 March 2021 — the day after pharmacists were added to the shortage occupation list — and 4 March 2022, a total of 599 people applied for the OSPAP.
This represents a 297% increase on the 151 applications recorded in the same period between March 2020 and March 2021, and a 668% increase on the 78 applications submitted between March 2019 and March 2020.
Successful completion of the OSPAP is a requirement for internationally-qualified pharmacists who want to join the GPhC register.
Pharmacists are considered to be ‘internationally-qualified’ if they have qualifications from outside of the UK or the European Economic Area (EEA), or if they are citizens of a non-EEA country with an EEA qualification other than a UK-recognised pharmacist qualification.
Pharmacists from EEA nations with relevant European qualifications, listed in Directive 2005/36/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council, can still apply to register with the GPhC for up to two years and do not need to go through the OSPAP programme.
Inclusion on the Home Office’s shortage occupation list means that it is easier for internationally-qualified pharmacists to successfully apply for a skilled worker visa through the UK’s immigration system.
Pharmacists were added to the shortage occupation list after a recommendation by the Migration Advisory Committee, an independent government advisory body, which is sponsored by the Home Office.
It made the recommendation after considering evidence from two stakeholders, who said there is “a national shortage in this occupation due to a decline in the number of pharmacy graduates and increasing demand for their services”.
Helga Mangion, policy manager at the National Pharmacy Association (NPA), said: “There is undeniably a workforce shortage in community pharmacy, so the NPA was pleased when the Home Office listened to our calls for pharmacists to be added to the shortage occupation list.
“It follows that we welcome these applications from overseas, and we wish the successful applicants a fulfilling career here in the UK,” she added.