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Recognition of pharmacist shortage welcome as sector loses out to PCNs

MAC: One criteria for inclusion on the list is the public value of the occupation

AIMp has welcomed the relaxation of rules on recruiting from abroad, as community pharmacy is losing experienced practitioners to “PCN-related activity”, the organisation has said.

Pharmacists have been added to the government’s ‘shortage occupation list’, which sets out which professions qualify for relaxed restrictions on hiring workers from abroad, due to a shortage of resident, skilled applicants. Other professions added to the list include laboratory technicians, senior care workers and nursing assistants.

Dr Leyla Hannbeck, chief executive of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp), hailed the announcement as a “welcome development, as community pharmacy continues to lose experienced pharmacists to primary care network (PCN)-related activity”.

“What is more, this continued drift is happening in an unplanned way that shows no regard for the provision or sustainability of community pharmacies,” she told C+D this morning (March 5).

“It has put severe pressure on the community pharmacy network, leading not only to a loss of local knowledge in our pharmacies, but also in some cases sudden and unplanned closures.”

Foreign healthcare workers “key role”

Announcing the addition of the extra “medical practitioners” – which pharmacists fall under – to the list, minister for future borders and immigration Kevin Foster said many overseas healthcare workers have “played a key role on the frontline of the NHS during the recent pandemic”.

“This latest set of changes, combined with our Health and Care Visa, will ensure they can easily get the immigration status they deserve,” he added.

As part of the government’s post-Brexit immigration policy, those seeking a UK work visa must reach 70 points to be eligible. Being qualified for a job on the shortage occupation list is worth 20 points, which can be combined with 50 points for a job offer from a licensed sponsor, the Home Office website explains.

MAC recommends pharmacist addition

The changes follow a review published by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) last year, which recommended that pharmacists be added to the list.

According to stakeholder evidence, “there is a national shortage in this occupation due to a decline in the number of pharmacy graduates and increasing demand for their services”, the report said.

As part of its recommendations to add pharmacists to the shortage occupation list, the committee said: “We acknowledge that pharmacists have played an important role in addressing the ongoing challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, this occupation is considered a high-risk occupation in terms of its exposure to disease and proximity to others which makes it particularly vulnerable to the issues COVID-19 poses.

“One of the criteria the MAC uses for inclusion on the [shortage occupation list] focuses on the public value of the occupation. For these reasons, we recommend that pharmacists should be added,” it concluded.

In the lead up to that review, pharmacy bodies told C+D that “unsociable” and “long hours” that go with the job of a pharmacist, plus the push to increase the number of those employed in GP surgeries and PCNs, had contributed to challenges in recruiting pharmacists.


Have you/your pharmacy had trouble recruiting pharmacists over the past year?
Have you had trouble recruiting pharmacists over the past year?

Sadiq Abdi, Pre-reg Pharmacist

I can't believe this.

Benie Locum, Locum pharmacist

*This comment has been deleted for breaching C+D's community principles*

Long Standing, Primary care pharmacist

Again I feel the media misrepresenting the reason why pharmacists don't want to shopkeepers increase the hourly rate to £40/HR and you will see an increase in pharmacists simples. I see this does not seem an option no problem get someone who have potentially poor English and relieve the demand by potentially substandard substitutes... Ohh the irony

TC PA, Community pharmacist

Now that is some poor english, unless it was supposed to be ironic?

Tohidul Islam, Locum pharmacist

I think Dr Hannbeck has been a bit lazy with her research. There's no shortage pharmacists whatsoever. The only reason pharmacies can't recruit is due to poor working conditions, poor wages and greed of certain employers to increase profit at any cost. I would be interested in seeing what data they used. 


Emma Harrison, Pharmacy owner/ Proprietor

She has spoken from community pharmacy's perspective, and well done to her for highlighting this. The reality is that there is a shortage and we have lost pharmacists to PCNs despite equal pay. We look after our teams so please do not put all employees in the same basket. Many leave because PCNs are considered more 'clinical'. What choice do we have when we cannot recruit pharmacists? 

Benie Locum, Locum pharmacist

She's not silly. She's part of the same cabal along with C&D.

Angela Channing, Community pharmacist

What is she a 'Dr' of? (Is she the same kind of Dr. like 'Dr' Jill Biden?!?).

This should have been stated in her MailOnline article. The general public see 'Dr' and think only medical dr, and it confuses them. 


Emma Harrison, Pharmacy owner/ Proprietor

Comments like this and the one above are just really sad and not constructive. As an employer I can tell you that she has stated the facts of what we are experiencing in community pharmacy, end of. Well done to her for highlighting.

Benie Locum, Locum pharmacist

They're facts because Leyla says so. Really ? But everybody else is hallucinating ?

Angela Channing, Community pharmacist

Where are you based Emma? As you can see, the majority opinion on here is that there is not a shortage of pharmacists.
There may be a shortage of pharmacists willing to work for less than £20 per hour and expected to drive over twenty or thirty miles with no petrol money, but that is a different discussion.
Yes,there are pharmacists leaving for PCN work and GP land but there are only so many of those jobs. Congratulations if you are an independent who pays a fair wage and provides an adequate support team. As many locums will tell you, these pharmacies are hard to find now.

Muhammad Siddiqur Rahman, Primary care pharmacist

I would love to see this research? Most PCN pharmacists roles are NOT being taken up be 'experienced' pharmacists as the vast majority of these roles are at Band 7 NHS AfC pay unless they mean experienced as in working in pharmacy for over one year! What's the definition of 'experienced' pharmacists here? 

locum norfolk, Locum pharmacist

Such a great point. Cheaper the better is what I've seen. First criteria for hiring is cheaper the better because they all do the same job, this mentality is crazy. But hey thats the game. BTW, there is a job advertised in Norfolk for a pharmacy dispensing 20k items a month, salary?????????


Let's leave it at that

Simon Ingham, Superintendent Pharmacist

I'm the poster of the £37k vacancy.  Reading this article as we are losing our pharmacist to the PCN.

I know the salary is below market average, although it matches the band 7 that the PCN is offering.  We are primarily looking for someone fairly newly qualified.  The 20k items are intimidating, but we have 2.5 full-time ACTs and a large proportion of these items are Dispensing Doctor ones, so can be checked by the dispensers.  I know many pharmacists working for multiples, and whilst we are busy, we don't put the same stress and demands on our team as they are under.  As a second pharmacist the role wouldn't carry the same day to day responsibilities as most jobs out there.  We might be able to increase the salary if having a second pharmacist is as successful in increasing service income as we hope.  We're expecting a fairly newly qualified pharmacist rather than someone who has years of experience and is going to take a big pay cut.  

We intend to offer independent prescriber training at some point.  Locums who self-fund this can pay in fees and their time over £5k for it.  Our benefits, holidays, pension, break time etc. are better than most employers are offering as well.

locum norfolk, Locum pharmacist

Embarrassing. You pay for the quality you get and a pharmacist is a pharmacist as we all qualify to the same standard, using experience as a means to quash wages will come full circle. I know many newly qualified in the are on high 40s some on 50s, good luck

Benie Locum, Locum pharmacist

I'm sorry but that is an embarrasingly low salary. But the most embarrasing thing is that you'll fill the position. I can only imagine the pharmacist left to join the PCN for lower pay and worse working conditions.

Angela Channing, Community pharmacist

That's 1000 items a day, or thereabouts! I hope there is a checking tech for that salary on offer?

locum norfolk, Locum pharmacist

Huge discrepancies on pay within the sector, not really paid for experience or ability. There are supermarket pharmacists struggling to check 5000 items a month on 55k but pharmacists capable of checking 800 to 1200 items a day and paid the same or less. Very bizarre situation.

Beta Blocker, Primary care pharmacist

55k days are long gone!

locum norfolk, Locum pharmacist

So are most ambitious pharmacists

Benie Locum, Locum pharmacist

Job seekers allowance would be better for your mental health and self respect.

locum norfolk, Locum pharmacist

Lol I think admin has it in for you, good points though

Benie Locum, Locum pharmacist

A big part of the problem is nobody wants to acknowledge the truth,  including C&D. Speak out and often you're swiftly shot down. Try telling an area manager for instance that the workload might be dangerous !? The flight from CP is the natural  result when you add up all these factors. 

Angela Channing, Community pharmacist

Totally agree. If there was a shortage then locum rates wouldn't be at £19/hr in the cities.

Caroline Jones, Community pharmacist

Why is the C&D even publishing such nonsense - pure fabrication 

Angry Pharmacist, Locum pharmacist

Correction. Should say 'Shortage of Pharmacists due to crap work conditions and pay'. Yes, next logical step for the money pinching, unappreciative government would be cheap labour from abroad that will work for peanuts. Win win!



C A, Community pharmacist

Yes community would be great, if it wasn't for the ridiculous expectations, long hours, lack of breaks, poor pay, lack of progression, unpaid overtime, pointless paperwork. Now there are yet more reasons to drive down pay, wonderful!

Angela Channing, Community pharmacist

C A, You should really go and put your quote on 'thestudentroom' site, as crazy 6th formers are all gearing up over there for their 'bright clinical future' working with GPs! 

I think a lot of kids who can't get into medicine pick pharmacy with the view to do Graduate entry medicine, maybe that is another reason why Boots and co. can't find any pharmacists? 

Benie Locum, Locum pharmacist

Boots are really good employers. Generous pay with tremendous working conditions and staffing levels.

TC PA, Community pharmacist

“there is a national shortage in this occupation due to a decline in the number of pharmacy graduates and increasing demand for their services”

They've missed off the parts about stagnant pay, poor prospects, lack of support staff and poor conditions (not true for all community pharmacies by any means and luckily not myself, but certainly a majority).

They need to make sure the mechanism remains for pharmacists to be brought in from abroad who are willing to work for sub £20/hr and ask no questions. If some pharmacies can't afford to pay a fair wage for a good pharmacist then I'm sorry, but they are not economically viable.


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