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England faces surplus of 19,000 pharmacists by 2040

People Pharmacy schools in England may need to cut their student intake by as much as 15 per cent year on year to avoid creating an oversupply of pharmacists, a government-commissioned review has warned.

Pharmacy schools in England may need to cut their student intake by as much as 15 per cent a year until 2020 to avoid creating an oversupply of pharmacists, a government-commissioned review has warned.

The government should take a flexible approach to limiting student numbers or face a possible surplus of between 11,000 and 19,000 pharmacists by 2040, the Centre for Workforce Intelligence (CfWI) argued in a strategic review published this week (September 2).

Failure to limit numbers would inevitably lead to unemployment and eventually jeopardise the allure of the profession, prompting an undersupply of pharmacists in the long term, CfWI said.

Schools may need to cut their intakes by as much as 15 per cent a year between 2016-17 and 2019-20, the review warned

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The review stressed that a flexible restriction on student numbers was the only way of matching supply to demand. Schools may need to cut their intakes by as much as 15 per cent a year between 2015-16 and 2019-20, it said, potentially increasing 3 per cent a year after that to avoid an undersupply of pharmacists.

However, the CfWI stressed it could only make estimates and that student intakes needed "careful monitoring and review" to respond to any changes in the market. The number of future jobs would vary dramatically depending on whether the sector played a wider role in healthcare, or whether internet pharmacies ate up market share, it explained.

The government was keen to curb any surplus in pharmacists at a time when NHS funding was under pressure, the review said. "Given the real possibility that NHS healthcare spending may not increase in the coming decades at the rapid pace seen over the past 50 or 60 years, addressing any oversupply becomes a priority," it explained.

The government first set out plans to cap pharmacy student numbers in the same way as medical and dental degrees in December, following concerns that a lack of controls could create an oversupply of pharmacists. Student numbers more than doubled from 4,200 in 1999 to 9,800 in 2009, Medical Education England figures showed.

The government will now consider how to respond to the CfWI review.

The CfWI's reasoning

How did the CfWI reach its conclusion?

The CfWI used a combination of figures on the pharmacist workforce and expert interviews to draw its recommendations. It interviewed a range of stakeholders, such as multiples, schools of pharmacy and student bodies to gauge their opinions. However, the CfWI said it would like more up-to-date figures on the pharmacist workforce and called for another pharmacy census to be conducted.

Why are its estimates so variable?

The CfWI forecast a surplus of between 11,000 and 19,000 pharmacists by 2040 if student numbers go uncontrolled. It based these numbers on four possible scenarios for the future of pharmacy with wide-ranging job prospects – from the domination of internet pharmacies to pharmacists establishing themselves as a regular point of advice.

Are you seeing a surplus/shortage of pharmacists in your area and has it affected job opportunities?

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Marc Opolo, Locum pharmacist

LooooL, Pharmacy in general is a joke.
Been in it for 8 years now, getting worse every month.

Don't kill yourself with stress moaning about something that
we are powerless to change. Encourage the young to stay away from it, and
then try diversify into an entirely different career field.
You're never too old to change direction.
Start a business. If you have 2.1 or higher apply to study medicine - you have nothing
to lose.
At least in the hospital they still have an ounce of respect for the pharmacist, but in the community.... ppfff! good luck.

Yacoob Maskeen, Community pharmacist

Reducing student intake by 15% every year wont make a difference what so ever, I can assure you. Since EU borders opened it just added salt to the wounds. Its becoming so stress full every day, waking up not knowing if work is out there or not, and what little that trickles in is not worth it at all, as they expect you to travel over 100 miles round trip, on your own fuel, not forgetting getting up 2.5 hours early, doing a 9 hour stressful shift in a busy branch, and get paid £ 20 to £21 per hour. Oh and drive back exhausted. No one cares. With more pharmacists out there the big multiples just love it, as they can just play games with us. Easy pickings for them. I believe these multiples must be trying to do everything in their power to make sure numbers stay increased.
Not to worry things will change,Once the message gets out in the clear open,students wont do this degree, and I dont blame them. Medicine and Dentistry,are much better,with excellent future prospects, and you are respected, and rewarded properly.

Amjid Iqbal, Locum pharmacist

The problem here is multifactorial:

1 - the role of a pharmacist needs to develop more. We are more than just professionals who pack medicines into dispensing bags. We possess a wealth of knowledge and expertise that needs to be utilised better.
2 - why does it take the 'powers that be' so long to do anything? Can't they forsee this 'supply and demand' issue? Act now, before it's too late....
3 - weak backbone in the profession full stop. Do you think nurses and doctors will be happy to work in such circumstances? Doubt it....
4 - pharmacists wages - supply goes up, demand comes down, wages come down. Control supply and demand and wages may restore themselves. More importantly, PHARMACY FUNDING AS A WHOLE NEEDS ADDRESSING!!!! We need to be better remunerated in the first instance. Again, 'powers that be' are happy for us to provide a very valued and important service at a pittance (90p dispensing fee, fluctuating incomes, etc).
5 - as healthcare professionals, pharmacists appear to be happy to continue to operate in such difficult and unpredictable conditions. We need to shout more, shout louder and get our voices heard.


Robert Axon, Community pharmacist

A further option could be to use these "surplus" pharmacists to the benefit of the patient by ensuring a minimum of two pharmacists available at all times. This could ensure professional services are maintained/introduced, dispensing levels are professionally manageable, introduction of a wide ranging minor ailments service (as eluded to be Professor Keith Willett) and possibly job satisfaction. Naturally we would have to renegotiate our paltry contract, preferably with someone who actually understands what Primary care and one billion prescriptions annually, actually entails.

Gordon Mackenzie, Community pharmacist

The only sensible solution to this problem is for the RPS to provide modules and examinations in all medical subjects such as diagnostics and clinical methods, radiology, prescribing etc. Make sure that pharmacists can fill in for GPs who are in desperate shortage and the problem is solved to the benefit of the NHS. Dispensing and medicines advice are no longer enough. If this advice is not taken pharmacists will increasingly be displaced by EU technicians and even dispensing robots. The government and chains may decide that a technician with a robot and the patient insert leaflet are sufficient in future.

K.J P, Locum pharmacist

2040 !!!!
2015 more like ... Nearly 4,000 registering yearly
Oversupply already

Martin Sinclair, Community pharmacist

What really upsets me after many years as a locum is the ludicrous complacency and total lack of foresight displayed by the Pharmaceutical Society, the G Ph C and the new RPS in allowing the situation to develop. All I seem to read in the PJ are self-congratulatory articles extolling the diversification of professional opportunities laid before us, totally ignoring the fact that over the years the profession has been progressively downgraded, devalued and frequently ignored by the powers that be. Schools of pharmacy are accredited willy-nilly, creating a huge over-supply of pharmacists in relation to opportunities which actually exist - Martin

Arun Jangra, Community pharmacist

Tell some one that cares . No one does. We shout and shout and all promise to do something but no one does .

Ahmed :-), Community pharmacist

How about jobs in pharmacy actually going to pharmacists as they would do a better job at it....think about it, area managers that can actually give an input into sound professional advice instead of the 'I expect my managers an locums to work through their lunch' drivel I have to endure...or a HR dept that would hire staff based on their suitability to pharmacy, not hiring a tech after said they had punched a pt in the face at their last pharmacy (true story)...or a chief executive to a multiple who would make decisions based on the actual effect on front line pharmacy, not rolling out nationwide one size fits all schemes that every pharmacy has to adhere to even though it makes no sense...or the chief executive of the PSNC sticking to her mandate to develop the organisation's capability to negotiate effectively with the NHS and develop the community pharmacy service rather than the negotiations that led to the introduction of the much maligned new community pharmacy contractual framework in 2005, which includes a number of new pharmacy services, among them Medicines Use Reviews and the New Medicine Service....yes I'm talking about the law graduate, Sue Sharpe....

max falconer, Superintendent Pharmacist

Quite right Ahmed.
The main redeeming feature of pharmacy as a career 20 years or more ago was the relatively good pay. I found an old payslip from around 1990 when I was a pharmacy manager. Salary then including bonus? C£32k. This is the equivalent now of around £60k. How many managers out there now on that sort of money?
Please if there are any youngsters out there considering pharmacy as a career-don't!!
It's bad for your health, bad for relationships and you can earn more as a plumber.

Gerry Diamond, Primary care pharmacist

MMmmm a bit of a mess really! Probably a good idea to get some dual qualification in another profession if possible plumber, nurse, social work but don;t limit yourself.

Another Pharmacist, Hospital pharmacist

Before we get to this situation of oversupply, perhaps it is worth the C&D doing an article about career changes. What alternative paths can current and future pharmacists take in order to get well remunerated, rewarding occupations? What have other pharmacists done once they have left the profession or removed themselves from the register. Are we going to end up with a pool of over qualified, under paid professionals all fighting for whatever work is out there and only being rewarded if they operate on the border of legality.


I feel sorry for locum pharmacists who are in a real predicament.
Multiples have got you by,the short and curlies...
2 Murs or face loosing your job, NMS, EHC, cholesterol checks, BP checks, RPCS, lack of staff, being undermined by staff,
Get togther, in 3-4s..Purchase a pharmacy and show the multiples how to run it..After five years , go together to the locum co-ordinators office and show them your bank balance!!!

Unless you unify, You will die as a profession, mark my words...The multiples won't feel any sympathy..

Pharmacist Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

And Mr Talhah Ibraheem I would love to take your advice. Unfortunately I cannot take the risk of even leaving a job for a few months without being paid in order to set up a business. I am not in a financially stable position to do that and unfortunately I dont have enough savings or rich friends or relatives to help me out. So im really happy for you Mashallah that youve done it, but its not as easy as u make it out to be. If so, please tell me how and I'll be willing to take your advice

Papa Echo, Community pharmacist

This is what I've been saying all along!!! It'sa worthless piece of paper now, this hopeless,worthless degree..... !!!

Clinical Pharmacist, Hospital pharmacist

totally degree it's a worthless degree, I am turning down work at present as I am fully booked up and have no time to fit it in. You have to drive forwards and stand out, use your skillset.

Yes jobs will be tough but if we stopped taking on substandard students on at undergrad level, we would do brilliantly with jobs.

Dorothy Drury, Locum pharmacist

I gather that pharmacy students have high grades, one I know has three A's nothing substandard in that.

Tim B, Locum pharmacist

It is when all A level courses etc have been dumbed down over the last few years!!!

Super Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

Pass me your number Talhah, I'll happily buy some of that remedy!!

Martin Palmer, Community pharmacist

I still think we will get the scenario seen in law - an over supply of pharmacy GRADUATES that cannot find a pre-reg place in order to qualify as a pharmacist (most law graduates struggle to find a training contract to become a solicitor and end up using it as a general degree)...

Not all pharmacists are pre-reg tutors, not all pharmacies are suitable for training - we may see only the very best graduates securing a place on a pre-reg in future. As for EU pharmacists entering the UK market, the relatively high cost of living in the UK compared to Eastern Europe may reduce the influx from outside the UK...

Underrated Professional, Locum pharmacist

It's true that law graduates struggle to find training contracts but there are many areas for them to diversify- business, banking,finance,teaching,communication. Pharmacy is limiting, and you need you GPhC registration.
I foresaw this coming years ago when all these schools of pharmacy sprung up. The Council are only interested in collecting more fees. EU pharmacists are being added on daily without a language competency test. I know of one pharmacy paying £10 per hour to an EU with poor fluency in English, who stays in the background while support staff communicate (all legal since responsible pharmacist is on premises).
Hospital vacancies are high. Candidates must have at least 2 years experience. But most pre-registration places are in community where vacancies are low. Furthermore a lot of pharmacist roles have been taken over by technicians, again lots of vacancies. Conclusion demote pharmacy students to technician level and stop importing anymore pharmacists.

Super Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

I can trump that S B A, I know of a pharmacy paying £9 per hour for an eastern European pharmacist. £9?! I know technicians who get paid £13 per hour!! In a way you cannot blame the EU pharmacist who has to make money to live yet getting exploited by unscrupulous owners, regardless of his/her competency levels. Just goes to show how low the professions has sunk over the last two decades

Leon The Apothecary, Student

"Demote pharmacy students to Technician level."

"Demote...students. To Technician."

Dorothy Drury, Locum pharmacist

If UK student numbers are reduced by say 500 a year, what will be the net result if an extra 1,000 EU pharmacists come to the UK in addition to the 1,500 that already come to UK each year?

Rehan nawaz, Superintendent

I wonder if this figure takes into account Eastern European pharmacists?

Pharmacist Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

I speak out to all SUPERINTENDENTS , are you also guilty of taking on EU pharmacists on lower salaries? I've heard and seen it many a times, mentioning no names but a few familiar names on here. So ur not actually helping the situation

Rehan nawaz, Superintendent

Taking on EU pharmacists on lower salaries is not a crime!! no need for proprietors to feel guilty. In fact, the work ethic/ambition/personal development/motivation of some home grown pharmacists is less than desirable so maybe thats why some employers turn to EU Pharmacists.

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