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ICB planning overseas pharmacist recruitment project to address staffing issues

The Norfolk and Waveney integrated care board (ICB) is in the “initial planning stages” of a project that would attract overseas qualified pharmacists to work in the area, in a bid to address its “high pharmacist vacancy rate”.

The overseas qualified pharmacist (OSP) project pilot aims to deliver short and long-term solutions to the “high pharmacist vacancy” rate in the area and the “challenges recruiting pharmacists”, pharmacy workforce transformation lead for Norfolk and Waveney ICB, Ceinwen Mannall, told C+D earlier this week (November 29).

The project is split into two workstreams. The first aims to “attract and support overseas qualified pharmacists with UK registration to work in Norfolk and Waveney”.

The second aims to “support internationally qualified pharmacists already living in [the] UK to register with the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC)”, which may include completing an OSPAP course, she explained.

As the support model is currently “in development”, Ms Mannall could not provide further details on it.

“Suffice it to say the process to navigate timelines, finance, securing education and training places, is complicated,” she said.

The ICB is also planning to pilot portfolio careers for newly qualified pharmacists, with the first cohort of pharmacists expected to start in March 2023.


First attempt at ICS level


Speaking to C+D earlier this month, Ms Mannall questioned whether the GPhC’s overseas pharmacists' assessment programme (OSPAP) is “still fit for purpose”, with C+D reporting that courses starting in 2023 and 2024 are already full.

She said that she and other members of the Norfolk and Waveney ICB “would like proportionate routes to registration that safeguards patient safety”.

Referring to the ICB’s project, which would facilitate the employment of pharmacists who were originally registered overseas, she predicted that the ICB were not the first to attempt something like this.

“I think we may be the first to be looking at it at an ICS system level,” Ms Mannall explained.




The ICB is currently identifying employers to participate in the pilot and ensuring it has the required resources in its “international recruitment hub to progress the project”.

Ultimately, Ms Mannall envisions initially recruiting 10 OSPs under the project and extending it into “additional sectors of pharmacy practice following the pilot”.

She added she hopes to extend the programme to pharmacists living overseas.

Read more: Well tempts overseas pharmacists with £8k support package and training offer

This would “support a sustainable two-way relationship and benefit health services”, she said.

Pharmacists who have qualified overseas are currently working in unregistered posts in the Norfolk and Waveney area or not working at all, she claimed.

Ms Mannall suggested that the OSP project would ultimately improve the delivery of pharmaceutical services, medicines optimisation and structured medication reviews in the area, as well as promote patient safety.

“What we [and] I want to do is deliver our social responsibility and inclusion objectives in supporting overseas qualified pharmacists to come into our workforce,” she explained.

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