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Number of EEA community pharmacists has fallen 9% since 2016

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The GPhC said it “cannot say what could be causing this small drop”

The total number of European community pharmacists in Great Britain has fallen by 9% over the last two years, according to figures obtained by C+D.

Between November 2016 and October 2018 the number of European Economic Area (EEA) pharmacists registered with the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) dropped by 333 – from 3,652 to 3,319.


The peak in November 2016 marked an end to an upward trend that began around January 2011, when there were 2,347 EEA pharmacists.

The number has now returned to its February 2016 level, and looks set to drop further.

The GPhC said it “cannot say with any certainty what could be causing this small drop”.

“There could be a whole range of factors at play in this complex issue including Brexit, changes to language requirements, employment prospects in Great Britain, as well as events in EEA pharmacists' home countries,” it told C+D.

“We do not have a role in workforce planning, but others who do are able to use our registration statistics to do so,” the GPhC said.

The number of EEA pharmacists registering in Great Britain for the first time was 24 between April and June this year – 85% less than the 160 who joined the register between October and December 2016.



The drop in EEA pharmacists means this group now makes up 6% of the total number of pharmacists on the register, compared with 7% in November 2016.

CCA chief warns of potential shortages

Malcolm Harrison, chief executive of the Company Chemists’ Association – which represents Boots, Lloydspharmacy, Well, Rowlands and Superdrug – wrote in a blog in July that the combination of the fall in EEA pharmacist registrations and fewer UK students studying pharmacy could ultimately lead to a nationwide shortage.

The number of people studying pharmacy at university has fallen 4.5% since 2013-14, from 14,599 to 13,940 in 2016-17, according to the GPhC.

“Unless something changes, the shortage of pharmacists will become more of a problem”, Mr Harrison wrote.

Explanding on his concerns to C+D this month, Mr Harrison said that in areas where it is difficult to recruit pharmacists “we could see a situation where pharmacies are not able to provide pharmaceutical care for patients”.

“Our members are working to address those issues,” he added.

Read how European community pharmacists in the UK have been affected by Brexit here.

Why might the number of European community pharmacists in the UK be falling?

R T, Manager

Brexit won't stop EEA registrants or hinder their chances in getting on the gphc register. The day after the result, Duncan Rudkin and the GPhC tweeted that they wouldn't change anything with regards to requirements for EEA pharmacists to join the register, so it will be as easy post brexit as it was pre brexit.


Why C&D and in particular the author of the article Thomas Cox (who has written extensively on the plight of EEA pharmacists) won't write an unbiased article on the situation is beyond me. 


I have come across a few excellent EEA pharmacists, highly clinically minded too and a  joy to work with. I've come across some where the dispensers had to draw pictures of what the pt was asking so they could communicate the problem with the pharmacist. 


CCA are worried at the lack of availability of cheap labour Brexit brings. I know that C0hens sent over their senior pharmacist to Poland and began a recruitment strategy in which they would pay for any costs incurred to a Polish pharmacist to come over; helping them fill in the required documents, once over the non existent border they would shadow managers of pharmacies for a number of months and their pay had already been decided. they would be given a stipend of £10 pd for food and for a short while were accomodated in local hostels until they were able to find their own accomodation.


A university peer of mine was forced out of her position their. She couldn't deal with the stress that directors kept walking in during her working day and picking up on every minor issue. I'm talking about a bit of dust on a door handle which they would raise the issue with the manager in a subtle way. She eventually found work in a gp practice which she is happy with but its sad that pharmacy is in this state and stupid that some people refuse to open their eyes to it.

A N, Community pharmacist

I visited a store this week. There was a patient asking for flujab. there were vaccines in the fridge, there was an English locum who was qualifed to do the flujab. He openly refused unless he got extra paymeny for it. it is not about where you are from, it is about who you are

A LOCUM, Community pharmacist

i personally have no objection of where a pharmacist comes from to work here SO LONG AS THEY CAN DO THE JOB , its dangerously obvious a huge percentage of EC pharmacists were/are totally incapable of this job , its often the staff carrying them , when i did a lot of agency work , customers would ring or ask the staff if the pharmacist today could actually speak english , employers are to blame as they were/are fully aware they're not up to the job , but money talks . I remember one EC pharmacist asking me 'what is this aspirin 75mg ?' another sold anusol cream for conjuctivitis 

Seal Patel, Community pharmacist

Ive seen alot of european pharmacists get jobs ahead of British qualified pharmacists just because they are willing to take less money. Lets not cry racism because this is true!!! I’ve worked double pharmacy cover where the counter staff asked me to speak to a customer because the customer cant understand the pharmacist. Same day I was told to take over a phone consultation as pharmacist not able to understand what the patient was saying. 

M K, Community pharmacist

This is absolutely unbelievable what you have written here and so sad. Probably it is just that you are afraid of competition. Competition from people who have abilities and enough courage to come to work to the different country. I do not believe what you have written about the knowledge of the pharmacists from EU. I found that they are very knowledgeble and they have an excellent work ethic. It is sad, but it looks like pharmacists get jelaous as well. I hope not many pharmacists are racist. About the pay for the pharmacists from EU. I haven't met one earning less than £20 per hour and I know few. I am aware of others working for £14 per hour!

New Pharmacist, Pre-reg Pharmacist

Competition is all good and well but the market is flooded. I voted Brexit as well. Competition for locum jobs isn't healthy here , it's affecting livelihoods. Unnecessary schools of pharmacies have opened , giving big companies every inch over us , since they can pick and choose who to employ for 17-18 pounds per hour

A LOCUM, Community pharmacist

if you read my first sentence, my comment isn't racist at all  , the two cases are true, i can name the two stores where it happened and you can ring the staff if you don't believe me , i'm sure they will tell you countless other similar incidents , why would i make it up ? , i'm not afraid of competition ,being british i was labelled expensive and expected to train educate and shadow EU pharmacists whilst they were working their 3 month induction , have you heard of the phrase 'if you pay peanuts you get......' and sorry for being honest 

M K, Community pharmacist

Did you have to shadow them or they were shadowing you? You can't shadow anybody who is on 3 months induction. These pharmacists are not registered with GPhC then. These people shadow registered pharmacists to learn the differences between pharmacy here and in their home country. They might not be aware of some medicines awailable here then.Some of the medicines in different countries are different. That's why there is 3months induction- to learn! If you have been asked to shadow them maybe you should have reported your employer. Is it not one of our duties to report if we see that something is not right? Locum pharmacist who has worked in my pharmacy for years had just been replaced with newly qualified pharmacist without much notice. I am sure that this new pharmacist earns less.Locum feels betrayed. Both pharmacists are British. One of the pharmacists I know who worked for years in a surgery has been fired a week ago. He feels betrayed, because he has been replaced with a newly qualified pharmacist. He has trained this pharmacist by himself. Both British.Times are like this. They replace people who earn more with cheaper ones, older with younger. It is sad, worrying and damaging. Employers don't care that much about employees as they used to. They care only about their money. We should stand up for our rights together no matter where you are from. We need to protect our rights, profession and future. Fighting between ourselves won't sort anything out.

Interleukin -2, Community pharmacist sure you meant to say "treated badly" and yes am sure you can speak English being british yourself

Meera Sharma, Primary care pharmacist

“We do not have a role in workforce planning, but others who do are able to use our registration statistics to do so,” the GPhC said.

Got to love them - aww, bless! "Nothing to do with us" seems to be their organisational motto!

Of course, the multiples that were actively hiring EEA pharmacists as they cost so much less had nothing to do with de-stabilising the pharmacy workforce market. Now that cheap labour force is declinign and they actually have to pay a professional to do the work, a huge article in the C & D appears. Coupled with this, declining Uni numbers (there was some research body that said they could not find any evidence that there were too many schools of pharmacy??), as graduates discovered what a shambles pharmacy has become.

Why is this coming as a suprise to Mr Harrison?? Are you actually in touch with the current pharnmacy world? Any pharnacist on this forum could have explained this to you a few times over in the last few years!

C P, Locum pharmacist

Cuts in locum rates and expenses mean that my income has dropped by 20% over the last 5 years.One of my employers justified the latest cut (10%) with the comment that newly qualifieds are now 2 a penny and that his rate reflects the going rate. ie this is what he can get away with therefore he will. Things will only improve when we close a few of these new pharmacy schools and cut down on the number of EU pharmacists.Roll on EU Independence Day!

Industry Pharmacist, Director

Boo-hoo Mr Malcolm Harrison and the CCA... 
I'm sure the profits will remain the same mind you. When they have to pay pharmacists a bit more to recruit, just off-set it against cutting a few dispensing hours per branch. 

Better pay but worse working conditions 

Angry Pharmacist, Locum pharmacist


One of the reasons I voted OUT was because of EEA Pharmacist’s coming here and working for peanuts and driving Locum rates down the pan. Thanks but no thanks. Hopefully Brexit does what I voted for it to do.



Benie I, Locum pharmacist

Understand your sentiment but won't make a blind bit of difference to your pay packet. Employers are in their element. They won't reverse plummeting rates at all. Currently [email protected]@ts are training up techs to take over and 'ease the burden'.  Not long after they will train up up min wage 16 year olds to 'ease the burden' on the techs. I think you can guess the rest.....

geoffrey gardener, Community pharmacist

That makes two of us

It's simple. Many EC pharmacists were attracted here by the likes of Lloyds because they could earn £18 an hour versus the equivalent of £7 back in their "home" country. Exchange rate changes plus a drop in earnings potential have made it less attractive.

The UK has a huge shortage of nurses, doctors, paramedics and midwives. It had a huge surplus of pharmacists. Now its a large surplus.

As smart pharmacists see their potential elsewhere there will still be a surplus as Boots, Lloyds and other CCA companies represented by Mr. Harrison will close 25% of their pharmacies in the next 5 years.

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