Speaking at North-east London local pharmaceutical committee’s (LPC) conference last week (November 15), Gail Fleming said a comparison of Health Education England’s first national Community Pharmacy Workforce Survey – published in May – with previous surveys showed a “downward spiral” in recruitment.
“It is becoming more difficult to fill the roles of pharmacists and nigh-on impossible to fill pharmacy technician vacancies” in Kent, Surrey and Sussex – a trend that has also been seen in London, Ms Fleming said.
HEE conducted workforce surveys in Kent, Surrey and Sussex in 2014, followed by Thames Valley and London in 2015, so the organisation could monitor the recruitment trends in these areas in particular, Ms Fleming explained.
Speaking to C+D at the conference, she said: “In London in particular, the challenge has been that we haven't trained enough pharmacy technicians.”
Pharmacy owners in these areas also confirmed at a workshop in May that they are “finding it challenging” to fill pharmacy technician vacancies, added Ms Fleming.
One reason for the recruitment issue is that pharmacy technicians often move from the community to hospital sector, resulting in “some” in community pharmacy questioning whether it is worth investing in training technicians, Ms Fleming said.
As a result, pharmacies might opt to hire a second pharmacist or make greater use of pharmacy assistants, as it is easier than finding a technician, said Ms Fleming, who was HEE head of pharmacy for Kent, Surrey and Sussex, and HEE pharmacy dean for London and the south east, until September.
“If we want to have sustainable pharmacy teams, we all need to do our bit and invest in [a] sustainable [supply of] pharmacy technicians,” she added.
APTUK: Workforce planning is crucial
The Association of Pharmacy Technicians UK (APTUK) told C+D today (November 19) that to “address the gaps” in pharmacy technician roles the sector “needs to ensure we attract talent”.
Funding for the training and professional development of pharmacy technicians is “required to ensure future sustainability of the workforce”, president Tess Fenn continued.
The APTUK has raised how “crucial” workforce planning is “for a continued supply of pharmacy technicians” with commissioners “on many occasions”, she said.