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UPDATED: Locums used more but ‘working fewer hours’, workforce survey reveals

A new survey of the community pharmacy workforce has revealed that locum pharmacists are being relied on more but are “working fewer hours on average”.

The community pharmacy workforce survey for 2022, today (August 3) published by NHS England (NHSE), provided a “snapshot” of the sector’s workforce across the country in autumn 2022.

The mandated survey was completed by 95% of pharmacy contractors - a “huge increase” on just 47% the previous year - NHSE said.

The results today revealed that “locum pharmacists are being used more as part of the staffing model, reflecting a change in working patterns in community pharmacy”.


Read more: Locum rates rise by a fifth to nearly £39 UK average, booking agency reveals


But the data also showed that “locum pharmacists are working fewer hours on average”, NHSE said.

The data will be used to “support decisions about where the community pharmacy workforce can contribute to supporting NHS clinical service expansion”, as well as decisions around education reforms for the sector, it added.

FTE locums rocket by 27%

The data showed that the number of full-time equivalent (FTE) pharmacists working in community pharmacy as a whole has decreased by 12% from 20,255 in 2021 to 17,844 the following year.

Within this, the number of FTE employed pharmacists has fallen 14% - down from 12,774 in 2021 to 10,943 in 2022 - it found.

But at the same time, it revealed that the number of FTE locum pharmacists has rocketed up 27% from 4,297 in 2021 to 5,477 in 2022.

Read more: ‘Overwhelmed’ locum suspended for four months over codeine payment mix-up

In 2021, FTE locum pharmacists had represented 21% of the FTE pharmacist workforce in the community pharmacy sector - but last year, this rose 10 percentage points to 31%.

And analysis of FTE locum pharmacist figures compared with the total headcount of locums working in the community shows that the proportion working full-time has dropped by 13 percentage points.

In 2021, 58% of locums were working in an FTE capacity compared with 45% last year.

“More important than ever”

NHSE said that the factors influencing workforce trends “are complex and beyond the scope” of its survey.

But it added that the insights are helping it, as well as employers and other stakeholders, to “inform future investment in education and training and effective workforce planning across all sectors of pharmacy”.

And it said that the findings would also inform its “ongoing review” of the Additional Roles Reimbursement Scheme (ARRS) and “proposals for supporting the development of multidisciplinary teams (MDTs) in primary care from 2024/25 onwards”.

Read more: Locum rates: Could you earn more by operating as a limited company?

Alan Ryan, NHSE national director of education, said that survey’s findings are “more important than ever” following on from the publication of the first ever NHS long term workforce plan in June.

“The new requirement for a mandatory survey recognises the priority the NHS places on the community pharmacy workforce and the importance of collecting consistent, accurate data to support effective workforce planning across primary care,” he added.

Read more: Revealed: The average locum pharmacist pay rate in 2022

NHSE said that the process for a 2023 autumn collection of data for this year’s mandatory workforce survey is “under way”.

It comes as a booking agency revealed in June that locum rates had risen by a fifth to a UK average of nearly £39.

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