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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?

sanjai sankar, Locum pharmacist

Unvelievable anyone can say there is a shortage of pharmacists....There are many of us available to work but at respectable rates and in safe working conditions....When these 2 crucial factors are addressed then there is absolutely no need to look abroad for more pharmacists....This article as is evident from most of the comments here is simply not true....


R A, Community pharmacist

''Recognition of pharmacist shortage welcome as sector loses out to PCNs''

I can translate what that means:

"Employers want a pharmacist to work for minimum wage and in a high volume environment and be prepared to work in an environment where they take full responsibility for all risks because support staff are not trained or qualified to assist the pharmacist with day to day operation" 

As you can appreciate most pharmacist would refuse to work an environment which will affect their health and the financial reward does not compensate for such output. Therefore yes a shortage exists because who in their right mind would want to work in such environment? 


Beta Blocker, Primary care pharmacist

This article is absolute rubbish. Pharmacists are leaving community pharmacy because of the stress, pressure selling from management and cr*p hours. They should be paying community pharmacists better instead of going abroad. Inevitably this will bring down wages further I think. I recently calculated my hourly rate from when I was in community to where I am now in GP practice. I now get £7 an hour more in GP land than community for less stress, less hours and less rubbish from management. It's a no brainer.

C A, Community pharmacist

*cough* know of any gaps, I'd quite like to earn £7/hr more

Emma Harrison, Pharmacy owner/ Proprietor

What is said here in this article about community pharmacy losing pharmacists to PCNs and GP surgeries is true. We pay our pharmacists well but this has been going on for some years as a career in PCN is considered more 'clinical'. It is also true that pharmacy is becoming an unattractive career to pursue. These are facts. There are some bloggers here on C&D who have left community pharmacy for PCNs.





Neil Bolton, Community pharmacist

pharmacists wages have been decreasing over recent years, I doubt you can support that they are well paid now based on how pharmacists have been paid in the past. £30+ per hour would be well paid but it won't be anywhere near.

Benie Locum, Locum pharmacist

I'm afraid you'll have to define 'we pay our pharmacists well.'

Pear Tree, Community pharmacist

What is equally true is pay in CP is crap, most eemployers are okay with stressful and dangerous work environment provided the foolish RP sticks their notice on the wall. There is no real progression or any genuine use of pharmacist's knowledge. I would urge any self respecting community pharmacist to leave this profession ASAP if they can find any alternative. 

C A, Community pharmacist

Have things really changed that much since 2019??

Pharmacists Employment
Share of UK employees (%, APS, 2017/18) 0.2%
Share of Tier 2 (% total RCoS Used 2015-2018) 0.5%
Share of employees born in the EEA (ex.UK) (%, APS, 2017/18) 6.2%
Share of employees born outside the EEA (%, APS, 2017/18) 15.6%

Wages Median full-time annual wage (ASHE 2018)

Vacancies (Burning Glass job posts/employment relative to median of occupations eligible for Tier 2) 0.8

Shortage indicator rank
Shortage overall rank  67/105

Do not recommend adding occupation to the SOL

Source - Migration Advisory Committee 
Full review of the Shortage Occupation List - May 2019



Due to COVID-19, all healthcare occupations for which new evidence was received have been re-examined

Median gross annual pay for full-time employees 2019 - £42,700

25th percentile of gross annual pay for full-time employees 2019 - £35,100

Pay growth 2016-2019 adjusted for inflation - -5% *



Share of total UK employees (APS, 2017-19) 0.2%

Share of employees born in the EEA (ex.UK & RoI) (APS, 2017-19) 3%

Share of employees born outside the EEA (APS, 2017-19) 15%

Share of employees continuously employed for 12 months or less (APS, 2017-19) 17%



Impact of COVID-19

Exposure to diseases - High

Proximity to others - High

Share of employees furloughed (LFS, 2020) - Unknown



Vacancies (Burning Glass job posts/employment relative to median of occupations eligible for Tier 2) 1.2

Percentage change in job postings (Burning Glass, Aug 2019 compared to Aug 2020)  -27.8% **

Number of Burning Glass job posts/number of employees relative to the median ratio for all occupations eligible for the Skilled Worker route (2012/13-2019/20)

Shortage indicator rank (only including SOCs for which at least 5 indicators could be calculated)

Shortage indicator overall rank - 40/95 RQF6+ occupations


Recommend adding entire occupation to the SOL

Source - Migration Advisory Committee. Review of the Shortage Occupation List: Sept 2020


* Even the Government notice that Pharmacists are effectively earning less. It must be bad.

** Oh look there have been less job vacancies in 2020 - I wonder why? I guess that mean that Pharmacy will be coming off the shortage list in 2021?

C A, Community pharmacist

Stakeholder Evidence
4B.50 Boots UK are looking to recruit different types of pharmacists, including pre-registration pharmacists and experienced pharmacists. They say they are struggling to recruit because of the level of competition and low number of applicants. They also state that the job entails shift work or unsociable hours which is why they are struggling to recruit. To deal with the shortages Boots have increased the number of recruitment resource specialists and invested in attraction methods. They have also been working to advertise roles globally.

4B.51 Boots also suggested that due to the cap binding between late 2017 and the first half of 2018, they did not get any successful CoS sponsorships for pharmacists during this period which further exacerbated shortages.

4B.52 The National Pharmacy Association agree that the long hours including weekends and evenings are making it difficult to recruit pharmacists. They also stress that there is difficulty employing in remote locations wherecommuting times are very long. Their members stated they had increased using the Tier 2 visa system which did help to some degree as well as increasing wages and using recruitment websites. They also claim there is a chronic shortage of community pharmacists in Northern Ireland.

4B.53 Many of these concerns are relayed by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society. They especially emphasise the difficulty in recruitment of community pharmacists as the desire to work in the NHS as a hospital pharmacist has increased. Community pharmacists are independent health professionals who provide services for dispensing of prescriptions together with advice on treating common illnesses. They also state there has been a 43 per cent decrease in applications from 2016 to 2018 from EU citizens. Despite many community pharmacies increasing wages they are struggling to attract students outside of cities.

C A, Community pharmacist

Hang on I though the whole point of this Brexit thingy was to stop foreigners from comming over and taking our jobs... but no... pharmacy has to be different and make it easier!


Benie Locum, Locum pharmacist

Truly baffling. Why would a human being of sane mind leave community pharmacy for a PCN ?

locum norfolk, Locum pharmacist


There should be a push back from the journalists on this, simply this is misleading. Greater oversupply will continue to drive wages down hard particularly locums. All the managers out there seem to think its rosy because they are salaried, trust me u won't be needed for long.

Smart money and people are out of the profession, those established as owners are generally ok if they are now a multiple.

This just isn't happening in the UK, wages in the USA have plummeted due to an engineered oversupply.

Lastly, all students at University should be taught about the current situation and future of community, the slow career progression at all in hospital and the lack of opportunity currently for those without funds for potential ownership. I inform any student whom appears switched on and tell them the truth, you should to.

All the best

Benie Locum, Locum pharmacist

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

Angela Channing, Community pharmacist

There are plenty of pharmacists. If the multiples paid more, and gave you some support staff, and treated you a tiny bit better, then there wouldn't be a problem, apart from maybe rural areas.

The smart under 30s are getting out, and I can't say I blame them. A 40/45 hour week in a community pharmacy is hell on earth now, with all the extra [email protected] they want you to do, but give you no extra staff or time to do it, and that's before we take into account Covid!

Emma Harrison, Pharmacy owner/ Proprietor

But we are hearing in all sorts of surveys that hospital pharmacists are also stressed out so it is not just community pharmacy. We are also hearing that many pharmacists are leaving the profession altogether. Are you saying that all these surveys are nonsense?

Angela Channing, Community pharmacist

Can you link to some of these surveys?
As locum rates are not even back up to where they were in 2008/9, then I really don't blame anyone for looking for a better paid job. I won't say career, as I don't really see community pharmacy as a career anymore. The multiples, in hand with the universities have ruined what used to be a respectable and well remunerated profession.

umar khaliq, Locum pharmacist

There is no shortage.

Is this the reason they pushing to reduce salaries?

Complete misrepresentation and manipulation of data here

C A, Community pharmacist

If there is a shortage they should be looking at increasing salaries, the law of supply and demand. 

Funny how the shortage doesn't resolve itself if you continue driving down the price.

Chris Locum, Locum pharmacist

There is only a shortage of willing fools who wish to be underpaid, abused, work in potentially dangerous conditions - while being coerced with the threat of GPHC.

Caroline Jones, Community pharmacist

This is ridiculous- there are 26 schools of pharmacy churning out 100 -300 students each; year on year.....the reason there are unfilled jobs in the community is for 1 of 2 reasons...1) salary 2) job satisfaction 

C A, Community pharmacist

There are 65k pharmacists in the UK - in 2020 there were 4.5k pre-regs - in what other "career" is the workforce expanding by 7% a year and there are still shortages?

Emma Harrison, Pharmacy owner/ Proprietor

As an employer we pay our teams and locums good pay and we have a great team. But despite that we have lost pharmacists to GP practices and the reason given to is because it is a more 'clinical setting'. This has created a shortage and this is fact. 


C A, Community pharmacist

Don't take it personally, how many other companies do the locums work for and what are the conditions like there? Locums have to work for multiple companies to keep HMRC happy, and from personal experience to get enough days to keep you going. Even if you have a regular one or two day a week locum, it's not that much income.

Benie Locum, Locum pharmacist

What is 'good pay' ?

Axed Locum, Locum pharmacist

Sadly you are a minority. The genuine feeling and trend is to exit the profession at the earliest available opportunity. The current working conditions and pay are very poor and future prospects in CP look bleak!!

Angela Channing, Community pharmacist

Are you in a rural area ? The biggest complaint I hear from locums is a shortage of work.
Would you like to reveal your locum rates?

C A, Community pharmacist

Did you not read the article - 

"According to stakeholder evidence there is a national shortage in this occupation due to a decline in the number of pharmacy graduates"

Boots said it so it must be true!

Clive Hodgson, Community pharmacist

Agreed Caroline, salary and conditions are are major factors.

And perhaps also experienced pharmacists in community pharmacy can see the trajectory of travel for CP and are now exiting at the earliest opportunity.

Considerable contraction in the number of bricks and mortar pharmacies is inevitable with the accelerating move to the “Amazon Pharmacy” model of medicine supply with its lower cost base. 


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