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'Nigh-on impossible' to recruit pharmacy technicians in some areas

RPS's Gail Fleming
Gail Fleming: We need to invest in a sustainable supply of pharmacy technicians

Challenges recruiting pharmacists and pharmacy technicians are being felt in the south of England and London, the RPS’s director of education has said.

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.  

You can also search for the latest pharmacy technician and pharmacist vacancies on C+D Jobs

Are there enough pharmacy technicians in your area?

Bertie Bassett , Pharmaceutical Adviser

Stressful working conditions, lack of progression/ development opportunities and poor pay vs responsibility.  Recruiting descent  experienced support staff has been difficult for the last few years, particularly in the south, this is nothing new.

Leon The Apothecary, Student

Not just in Pharmacy as well. Other healthcare sectors are reporting they are struggling with numbers as well.

JOHN MUNDAY, Locum pharmacist

Most pharmacy techs only get minimum wage which is a national scandal look itself. A cleaner will get better wages so is anyone surprised? Pay should be a minimum of £12 per hour for this vital role. It makes me mad!

Leon The Apothecary, Student

I know a number of locum dispensers at NVQ2 who don't even bother getting out of bed for £14-16, and from what I see, they have their pick of offers.

I think pharmacy is lucky more support staff have not yet clocked onto this idea.

Benie I, Locum pharmacist

£12 per hour is approaching pharmacist wages....

Julie Friday, Accuracy checking technician

I was £12.50 three years ago which is probably why Boots pushed and forced me out. I know they don't pay ACPT anywhere near that hourly rate now.

Getting Out, Accuracy checking technician

You're not alone.

Benie I, Locum pharmacist

Sums up that lovely company. But apparently patient centred care is their speciality.

Paul Dishman, Pharmaceutical Adviser

Offer people better money and decent conditions and you'll fill the vacancies. It's not rocket science.

SIMON MEDLEY, Community pharmacist

contrary to what some posters on this site think, Pharmacy is not awash with cash these days due to the fun and frolicks of rampant austerity and cat m claw backs- I'd love to pay more but the cash isn't there. 


C A, Community pharmacist

Part of the justification of the cuts was the "excessive" margin that multiples allegedly had - if they had paid their staff more they would have had less "excessive" margins - therefore they wouldn't have been able to justify the cuts... and it risks becoming a self fulfilling prophecy - just look at the locum rates over the last 10 years - their stagnation/decline has proped up the margin of contractors - making them more susceptible to claims of "excessive" margin. 

C A, Community pharmacist

Alternatively if they had more staff, the working conditions would be less akin to sweatshops... so recruitment wouldn't be so hard and the margin would be less "excessive".

Benie I, Locum pharmacist

You don't have to. But you pay peanuts and......

Meera Sharma, Primary care pharmacist

Agree with the comments on here - the conditions & pay in community for both pharmacists and pharmacy technicians are dismal. It is therefore not a surprise that it is difficult to recruit when there are other job oppoprtunities paying more. Anyone looking at the downward spiral of community pharmacist wages should have seen this coming - why is it a surprise to the bodies? Or have you not been reading all the posts about the conditions and wages on this very forum?

Benie I, Locum pharmacist

The ‘governing’ bodies have seen their money rise year on year. So to answer your question they would have seen all this coming but it is of no financial consequence to them so therefore no need to be too concerned. 

anti-depressed Pharmacist, Manager

My maths might be wrong but there are far more community pharmacies than there are hospitals, so I don't see how Technicians moving into the hospital sector could be causing a recruitment issue.


Could it be the poor working conditions and poor pay in community that is making them leave?


This may be anecdotal evidence but I have had two Technicians in the past year leave to work as shelf stackers/cashiers in a supermarket, they say the pay is better, less rude customers, better flexible hours and no fear of a criminal record for bagging the wrong item.

Benie I, Locum pharmacist

There you go. The problem summed up succinctly. Better money with better working conditions. It’s called a win win situation. 

Benie I, Locum pharmacist

Impossible to recruit? Up the insultingly low rates and I suspect recruitment problems might ease.

H W, Community pharmacist

All the techs I've worked with in community seem to be no different from dispensers apart from they're on a higher wage and will tick off blister packs... Some communication between all the bodies to tell us pharmacists what techs can and can't do would be nice.

I've never once been told by university, GPhC or otherwise who actually requires what qualifications for what job title

Leon The Apothecary, Student

True, and checking can now be done by a NVQ2 with the correct qualification.

Pharmacist wages are down to such a historic low that it is better value for employers to just employ pharmacists and MCAs.

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