In September this year, the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) asked pharmacy bodies to explain what steps they are taking to address inadequate staffing levels. The regulator had been prompted to take action after it identified its premises standard – which requires pharmacies to have “enough staff, suitably qualified and skilled, for the safe and effective provision of pharmacy services” – as one of the most commonly failed areas in inspections for the second quarter in a row.
Speaking exclusively to C+D last month (November 16), Malcolm Harrison, chief executive of the Company Chemists' Association (CCA) – which represents the UK's largest multiples and supermarket pharmacies – said: “We’re starting to see a decline in the number of people entering into community pharmacy.”
And “there are a number of things on the horizon” which will make the workforce situation worse, he warned, including changes to tax regulations for locums trading as limited companies, Brexit, and the drop in the number of pharmacy students.
The University of Sussex’s consultation, on whether to close its school of pharmacy due to low uptake of the MPharm degree, is something “I have not heard of before in my time as a pharmacist”, Mr Harrison added.
He suggested that the rise of the “gig economy” could also mean potential pharmacy students are looking to qualify with a degree that “gives more opportunity to be flexible, to move between professions, careers and sectors, [not] just within pharmacy”.
The “massive recruitment drive for general practice” and the greater opportunities for pharmacists to work in other medical professions “might [also] be taking people away from community pharmacy”, he added.
The workforce situation “is only going to get worse unless something changes”, Mr Harrison stressed.
Read Mr Harrison’s views on safe staffing in community pharmacy in C+D’s exclusive interview.