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27% of pharmacists working for CCA members want to leave, PDA stats reveal

More than a quarter of pharmacists working in pharmacies owned by Company Chemists' Association (CCA) members would like to leave the sector, a survey by the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) has found. 

More than 2,500 pharmacists – both employees and locums – based across the UK responded to a PDA snapshot survey about their current roles and career plans, the PDA revealed yesterday (March 7).

Over half (54%) of respondents who said they worked for CCA members said they are “looking for a change” within the next 12 to 18 months. This included 17% who intend to become locum pharmacists, 23% who intend to work in another sector of pharmacy, and 11% who plan to retire, according to the PDA.

Over a quarter (27%) of these respondents said they “intend to leave pharmacy altogether” within the next 12 to 18 months.


Read more: Compare stress levels and pay rises in 2021 at Boots, Lloydspharmacy and Well


CCA CEO Malcolm Harrison argued that the number of those who responded to the PDA survey represents less than 5% of registered pharmacists, although he acknowledged that some of the PDA's findings tallied with those of the CCA.

See his full response below.

The survey feedback showed that “unsatisfactory pay and working environments, lack of professional fulfilment, and poor management all rank highly as reasons expressed by pharmacists for deciding to reconsider their current positions”, the PDA said.


63% of respondents “do not believe there is a shortage of pharmacists”


The findings follow a report published by the CCA last month, in which it claimed there had been a shortfall of 3,000 community pharmacists in England over a five-year period due to a “tug of war” between different parts of the healthcare sector.

Explaining the rationale behind its survey, the PDA said it was “important to find out why the CCA members could not recruit pharmacists” at a time where pharmacist numbers are at record levels – 60,641 in 2021 compared to 43,500 in 2011.


Read more: Why did the Home Office add pharmacists to the shortage occupation list?


Some 63% of all respondents to the survey reported that they do not believe that there is a shortage of pharmacists, the PDA revealed.

However, 56% said that they were now working part-time and of these, 74% said that they would no longer consider a full-time position.


“An enormous human and societal investment is being squandered”


PDA chairman Mark Koziol said: “What many pharmacists seek is professional fulfilment, safer working environments, career development, and more sociable working hours.”

The survey results “paint a disappointing and alarming picture for pharmacists”, he added, with “the most alarming finding” being that many are looking to leave the profession altogether.

“This means that an enormous human and societal investment is being squandered. There can be very little that is more damaging to the long-term interests of the profession,” he said.

Representatives from the CCA should not argue that their members “are the helpless victims of a national shortage of pharmacists”, he claimed. Instead, its members should “face up to their responsibility for the working environments experienced by their pharmacists and put in place the repairs that are long overdue”.


CCA: PDA’s findings support “many” of our conclusions


Mr Harrison acknowledged that "several" points raised by the PD's data "support many of the conclusions that we have drawn in our recent paper on the workforce,” he added.

“We are not surprised to hear that a large proportion of respondents are choosing to work part time, this is something that we highlighted in our report. This, alongside the primary care network recruitment drive led by the NHS, has resulted in a need for more pharmacists for the same amount of pharmacy time,” Mr Harrison argued.

He acknowledged the importance of career development and professional fulfilment in encouraging retaining of the community pharmacy workforce.

But he added that “health funding” is needed “to ensure community pharmacy remains a career of choice”, suggesting that the CCA will continue to advocate for increased funding in the next contract.


Read more: 'Challenging discussions' ahead as 2022/23 pharmacy funding talks start, PSNC says


Last year, pharmacists were added to the government’s shortage occupation list. This decision was welcomed by the Association of Independent Multiple pharmacies, which at the time told C+D that “community pharmacy continues to lose experienced pharmacists to PCN-related activity”.

However, some locum pharmacists and the PDA have questioned whether pharmacists should be on the shortage occupation list.


Catch up with C+D’s Big Debate, which asked: Is there a shortage of community pharmacists?


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