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GP pharmacist push blamed for Lloydspharmacy’s recruitment challenges

Lloydspharmacy: New roles in other sectors dilute the number of candidates for community
Lloydspharmacy: New roles in other sectors dilute the number of candidates for community

The push to recruit more pharmacists to GP surgeries could be contributing to Lloydspharmacy’s struggle to source pre-regs, the multiple has said.

Lloydspharmacy has “seen a drop this year” in the number of pre-registration roles filled through Health Education England’s (HEE) centralised recruitment scheme, Oriel, the multiple told C+D last week (January 15).

This is broadly in line with the Oriel figures for the sector, which showed that just 43% of the 2,092 community pharmacy pre-reg roles have been filled for 2019-20 (see more below).

However, recruitment is “a much broader issue” than Oriel alone, Laura Reed, clinical training manager at Lloydspharmacy’s parent company McKesson UK, said.

“We are finding it a challenge to recruit pre-regs and pharmacists generally, for a variety of reasons.”

The new roles opening up for pharmacists to work in different settings, such as GP surgeries and care homes, “dilute the overall number of candidates looking to work in the community sector”, Ms Reed said.

She also pointed to the fall in the average pass rate for the June pre-reg exam – from 95% in 2016 to 78% in 2017 and 79% in 2018 – for “decreasing our newly qualified candidate pool year-on-year”.

The fall in the number of students choosing to study the MPharm degree is also a possible reason for the multiple’s recruitment challenges, she added.

While Lloydspharmacy has regular discussions with Oriel to address the issues of filling community pharmacy pre-reg places, Ms Reed said the “unhelpful” language from policy makers is not helping candidates’ perception of the sector.

“It’s disappointing that ‘clinical’ pharmacists are often portrayed separately to community pharmacists,” she said.

“Until these perceptions are addressed, we will struggle to compete with hospital pharmacy placements.”

Ms Reed’s view gives credence to comments from England’s deputy chief pharmaceutical officer Bruce Warner, who last week defended NHS England's use of the controversial term “clinical pharmacists” to describe only those working in hospitals or recruited into GP practices, by claiming “not all pharmacists can do everything”.

Well: Keen to address recruitment issues

Well Pharmacy echoed some of Lloydspharmacy’s concerns. The multiple has filled 24 of the 40 places it made available through the Oriel system for the 2019-20 intake and has seen “reduced attendance at university careers fairs and lower application numbers for our summer placement programme”, learning and development manager for pre-reg training Jessica Follows said.

“We are therefore keen to work with HEE, universities and the British Pharmaceutical Students’ Association to see how we can address this,” she added.

“Buyer’s market”

However, Khalid Khan, head of training and professional standards at pharmacy chain Imaan Healthcare and member of Oriel’s evaluation steering group, said pharmacies must remember that pre-reg recruitment is “a buyer’s market”.

“It’s the students who choose where they apply,” he said. “The question isn’t: ‘Is the system working?’ It’s: ‘Why has no one chosen my place?’”

Imaan – which has filled 18 of its 40 pre-reg positions for 2019-20 via Oriel – has improved its marketing and made its programme more diverse by offering cross-sector elements, such as time in GP practices, in “nearly all” its placements, Mr Khan said.

A HEE study into Oriel’s first year showed that the “number one” factor for students choosing where to complete their pre-reg training was location, he added.

“It’s not the size of the company or the reputation, it’s just geography.”

Boots: We have a responsibility to improve perception

Boots echoed Lloydspharmacy’s concern that the drop in the number of students choosing to study pharmacy at university “will affect recruitment in the future”.

It made more than 1,000 pre-reg places available for this year, but said it is waiting for these to be accepted before revealing how many positions are filled.

“We have a responsibility to develop the workforce of the future and make pharmacy an attractive and appealing career,” the multiple said.

In November, Company Chemists' Association chief executive Malcolm Harrison – which represents the largest multiples and supermarket pharmacies – warned that it was “starting to see a decline in the number of people entering into community pharmacy”.

Behind the Oriel recruitment figures

2018-19 intake

According to HEE, 2,161 places for the 2018-19 intake were advertised via the Oriel system. Of these, 1,427 were in community pharmacy and 734 in hospitals.

While all the hospital roles were filled, only 887 candidates accepted positions in community pharmacies – meaning 38% of the available positions were left vacant.

2019-20 intake

An extra 720 places were advertised via the Oriel system for the 2019-20 intake – 2,092 in community pharmacy and 789 in hospitals.

Again, all the hospital roles were filled, while only 898 candidates accepted positions at community pharmacies – meaning 57% of the available positions were left vacant.

HEE told C+D the figures for the 2019-20 intake represent “a significant achievement”, due to the increased number of places available. “The scheme is still in its infancy and we are keen to hear the views of our stakeholders,” they said.

Are you having trouble recruiting pre-regs and pharmacists?

Pharmacy Career, Design


Community pharmacy is a soul and mental health destroying job. Bullied by a selection of  staff, management and patients while continuously working on a never ending, high speed, treadmill monstrosity of prescriptions baskets and stock that you have to keep jumping on and off of to achieve MUR, NMS, Flu jab... targets and to serve on the till because there's no staff, with retail managers pressuring for numbers.You won't loose any weight doing this either because of constant high cortisol levels from the stress and constant sugar, coffee and junk needed to sustain you through the unhealthy working routines and long retail opening hours. Weight gain, psoriasis, hunched posture and varicose veins are a few of the symptoms you will get in the short run.

Tim B, Locum pharmacist

I think that Well are far worse than other companies in the way they treat pharmacists . They are a   dreadful outfit !!!  These companies are set to reap they have sown 

Industry Pharmacist, Director

For those students that are doing a community pre-reg learn all you can get some people management skills under your belt as well as operational management then transfer them to another sector. 

Lloyd’s is an aweful company to work for. Horrible culture and very poor staff morale. Pretty much every ex-Lloyd’s employee will say the same. Their issue is their mistreatment of pharmacists hence why students are choosing any sector but community. 


Beta Blocker, Primary care pharmacist

Couldn’t agree more.... they’ve also been closing and selling stores without telling staff until it’s too late. 


Saddened Old Timer, Community pharmacist

All of these companies need to look at their working practices and how they treat their professionals. Yes pharmacists are leaving for primary care but its a way out of intolerable working conditions and to be treated as a professional and get some respect both personal and professional. 

Benie Locum, Locum pharmacist

If nothing else Boots and Lloyds certainly have a sense of humour judging from the statements they put out.

Pharmacist Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

Is that why McKesson bought Prescribing Support Services? So that it could bully good practice pharmacists to commit to community pharmacy roles?

Ronald Trump, Pharmaceutical Adviser

And it's not just Lloyds struggling to recruit, most other multiples struggling too in large parts of the UK due to pharmacists leaving to take up other jobs in primary care and Brexit reducing new registrations from EU pharmacists.

Perfect opportunities for Locums to put your prices up! Dont be afraid! It's supply and demand.

Lucky Ex-Boots Slave, Primary care pharmacist

Once they push through the ACT supervision and remote supervision of pharmacy operation there will be no more space for locums I am afraid. I can pretty much forsee that's the next step for the nhs to finish off the community sector!

Ronald Trump, Pharmaceutical Adviser

As long as community pharmacists still exist there will always be a proportion of the workforce operating as locums: due to maternity/paternity, illness, recruitment issues, holidays etc

But yes, remote supervision would likely reduce the whole pool of jobs for community pharmacists. I think we are still 10-15 years off full remote supervision though, mainly due to lack of technology, investment and austerity. Also, I dont think remote supervision would be as bad for jobs as pharmacists think, because there is still the potential for pharmacists to offer a wealth of clinical services and advice in both face to face and e-consultation methods. I think remote supervision for dispensing and supply purposes is just a natural progression as it ties in with technological advancements e.g. hub and spoke, and a move to online amazon-esque services which is what future generations will demand.

The days of pharmacists simply ticking off boxes of simvastatin all day and creaming of dispensing fees are over. NHS and patients demand more. More tech-savvy convenience when ordering/supplied their meds, and more clinical services.


Interleukin -2, Community pharmacist

I used to be able to read up stuff mainly other people's ideas and pass it off like my own and it makes me feel slightly better with myself. Its impressive what you've done here.. wish I could still do it

Leon The Apothecary, Student

I agree with the role of Pharmacist moving away from dispensing. A lot of the FMD solutions with PMRs involve barcode validation which is essentially an accuracy check without the risk of human error. Clinical checking could be done offsite and there are plenty of communication options out there for both staff and patients.

Which raises an awkward question to ask - does a Pharmacist need to physically be in a Dispensary?

Lucky Ex-Boots Slave, Primary care pharmacist

 ''does a Pharmacist need to physically be in a Dispensary?''

Yes and no.  Consider the majority of pharmaicst's workload in community is checking scripts, the nhs simply don't see the point when they can simply push through ACT supervision and pay them half of even less salaray then a pharmacist to get the same job done. And you are correct, clinical checks can be done off-site.

Good thing is that the nhs recognise and acknowledge the importance of pharmacists. They however think having pharmacists in community dispensary is bascially a waste of resources hence all these pilots to push more pharmacists out of community and into more clinical roles but not just some logistics and shelf-stacking tasks that can be done by any random person.

Community Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

'any random person' ...what a gross insult to the dedicated dispensing teams all over the country maintaining medicine supplies despite 'robotic' wholesalers and hubs. The local Boots converted to 'hub' dispensing....Total fiasco leading to good busniness growth for us as customers prefer real,caring dispensing services rather than faceless profit making mechanised schemes..The local hospital bought a robot with public funds ...then ditched half the staff and outpatient dispensing  thereby diverting all those tricky illegible ,undated/unsigned/no such thing scripts to the community...Thanks guys at the NHS!!!,Solved your attrocious waiting times in a sweep by not doing the work at all...O the joys of robotic dispensing...the local knobs did a lovely tour of the shiny machine pre buffet I'm certain..The NHS powers live in a fantasy world the uncarers out.

Leon The Apothecary, Student

I completely agree with the importance of pharmacists. And it's very clear what the agenda is with the future too, we've had a lot of indication of this already in my humble opinion.

But is it to the benefit of the patient? 

Community Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

None at all...all benefits to the sales team (can't believe they swallowed that nonsense) at Robotics Inc. and shareholders abroad as they then live off exhorbitant 'maintenance contracts and fees.

Ronald Trump, Pharmaceutical Adviser

I have been working in Community Pharmacy for about 8 years both as a manager and locum for most of the multiples and independents. The working conditions in most of the multiple pharmacys are terrible and very stressful. The amount of prescriptions to check, services you are forced to offer and sheer amount of multitasking you have to do with little support is enough to drive anyone away from the job. Most pharmacists I talk to all say the same- its stressful, monotonous and not worth the hassle.

I, like many others have decided to leave the sector so I am currently studying a clinical diploma/IP and will be starting a new job soon in another area of primary care where I can use my skills and knowledge to gain more autonomy in my job, work in a less stressful environment and have more opportunities for pay and careeer progression. Maybe 5-10-15years down the line community pharmacy might be an attractive sector to work in again once the checking burden is removed, there is more support staff, less commercial pressure/bullying from management to perform services, better pay and working enviroment etc Until then new graduates will steer clear and community pharmacists like myself will embrace new training and job opportunities and move away from the sector. Oversupply of pharmacists, lack of proper regulation from the GPhC and multiple greed has ruined the sector. But I do feel times are changing and power is shifting back to the individual pharmacist and away from the multiples which surely has to be a good thing unless you're a contractor/multiple.

A lot of pharmacists have been trapped in there jobs because of lack of other job opportunities, lack of study opportunities, mortgages to pay and families to support. However the last 2/3 years we have seen many more job roles opening up in other areas of primary care, care homes etc and this seems to be the strategy with NHS England moving forward. Also there has been a decrease in number of pharmacists entering the register the last few years because of brexit fear. This means community pharmacists now have more of a choice and do not have to put up with such poor working conditions, stress and pay etc and they will vote with there feet! Multiples have to up their game now otherwise it will cost them dearly in the long run.

And what happened to pharmacists who dreamt of owning there own community pharmacy business at the start of there uni degree?!- multiple greed/GPhC regulation ruined that too. LOL!

Susan Lee, Superintendent Pharmacist

In my view all newly qualified pharmacists are a product of their tutors and the quality of their pre-Reg experience, it’s 12 months of ‘once in a career lifetime opportunity to learn without the full responsibility of a qualified pharmacist. Sadly community pharmacy as an employee of a large multiple just doesn’t have a good reputation at the moment. There’s little autonomy, unattractive working hours, varied shop and back shop environments, far too few (in number, skill, experience and expertise) support staff and in all honesty, like others have said these employers really must look long and hard at what they are offering. Can a pre-Reg. rely on an excellent experience in the factors that are outside their control?

Independant t Thinking Pharmacist , Locum pharmacist

That’s pretty obvious, the opening up of different sectors will erode the pool for “standard” community pharmacists . It obviously wouldn’t be down to the general lack of professional respect, reduction in salaries, bullying, seeing more experienced (expensive) pharmacists being performance managed out, enforcement of clinical services for commercial interest that might be driving potential candidates away 


Maria Gilbert, Primary care pharmacist

No wonder they're not getting very far if she really is having regular discussions with 'Oriel'. Oriel is an inanimate web based recruitment system without any artificial inteligence not even specific to pharmacy!

However, the year they are attempting to recruit from was a low birth year and therefore less undergrads to choose from. Some of those who do apply to Oriel don't actually get through and of those who do some will fail the pre-reg. Other medical degrees (especially medicine) are becoming more attractive and easier to access due to higher places and lower recruitment standards. 

So, taking all of this into account maybe Ms. Reed and her team should take a look at how they can improve their working conditions and standards as many before me have suggested rather than trying to blame an inanimate object for the unattractiveness of their offerings.

Sue Per, Locum pharmacist

In real terms, working for the present set of multiples community pharmacy is no different from working in a factory, doing repetitive demoralising work, which has little bearing to the knowledge acquired at the universities. This is done to attain maximum fee profit, with little regard to the persons welfare and mental torture inflicted on the qualified person. Also there is no "union" to fight for the professionals cause, and to add to insult to injury, the profession's regulator has failed to take action against these multiple operators who have breached the professional rules and lowered the standards at the pharmacies they operate.

There has to be a radicle change to the working conditions in community pharmacies, before the new generaton of graduates return to the sector.

I would advise them to bargain hard, and fight for their well deserved respect and right to work with pride, dignity and without any compromise to their professional independence. 

Adios.. i am out for the present moment


Lucky Ex-Boots Slave, Primary care pharmacist

Haha I love to see these big chains suffering by paying out even more money to hire locums with their "strategic" cost cutting measures! It's like firing all your IT staff to save money but the next day you got hacked by hackers and turns out to lose out even more! Not just Lloyds but Boots alike!  You and your shambolic company deserve the punishment. Serve you right! 

Honest Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

It was hell on earth working for LloydsPharmacy and anyone with half a brain should stay clear of them!

From what i’ve heard about Boots; they too are a nightmare and Well are following in their footsteps! 

Let’s be honest here Ms. Reed - it’s YOUR company that people dislike and want to avoid because they know what kind of employer Lloyds is. 



, Community pharmacist

Ms Reed, you need to take your head out of the sand. Lloyds Pharmacy is a big turn off for Pharmacists. Basically the management have to bully to get anything done. Nobody in the business actually cares about Lloyds. It is heading for a collapse. Foundations are very weak. There has been very little investment in stores or quality management. Good luck trying to hire Pharmacists...peanuts and monkeys come to mind.

H Saw, Community pharmacist

Maybe recruiting competition isn't the right thing to blame? How about some root analysis? Yes looking into welfare and training quality.

Tohidul Islam, Locum pharmacist

Ok, let's have some honesty here. Pre-reg's are making a concious decision not to pick community because through social media they are aware of which sector to avoid and which comapnies especially to avoid. From my discussion with pre regs, they feel working for the large multiples all they do is stack shelves and get told by staff what to do. As pre regs, they are supranumerary not spare hands to do the dispensers and shop assistants job. If you're wondering why students don't choose phamracy profession anymore it might have a lot to do with the fact that some of the biggest companies have an extremely poor reputation when it comes to how they treat pharmcists. Then take into account the driving down of wages, work place pressure, bullying by area managers and harassment to hit commercial targets. You don't need to look far if you want to ensure you have a workforce left in the near future. You just have to treat the current pharmacists with respect and disgnity. They'll then encourage the next generation to study pharmacy and as if by magic you'll have a whole generation of pharmacists to abuse with low wages and unrealistic commercial targets. 

Lucky Ex-Boots Slave, Primary care pharmacist

Well said and spot on! Do you know what I said to my last pharmacy student who was doing a placement with Boots? "Try your very best NOT to get into community!"

Oluwaseyi Folayan, Pre-reg Pharmacist

What deluded rubbish. Never mind that current pharmacists are overworked, underpaid and undervalued! Of course that would translate to warning the younger  recruits to learn from our unfortunate mistakes!  This is good news, if you ask me. Treat your current employees like humans before trying to blame people for seeking out better, more sane positions.



I'd always advise a student to do their pre-reg in hospital. If you are lucky and get a supportive community pharmacy then that's great. But all too often you end up with jobs like stock taking the toothpaste or nappies. I'm not saying this is always the case, I'm sure there are some great community placements.

I think this message has got through to students and they are voting with their feet.

Lucky Ex-Boots Slave, Primary care pharmacist

There is hardly any "great" community pharmacies left out there. Maybe some small independents making up less than 1% off all pharmacies but don't worry they will soon all close down because of all the funding cuts! 


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