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Unsociable hours blamed for pharmacist recruitment challenges

One unnamed multiple recorded 43% fewer job applications from EU citizens over two years

Boots and the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) have both blamed difficulties recruiting pharmacists on the “unsociable” and “long hours” that go with the job.

The organisations were responding to a government consultation that asked for evidence of a shortage of pharmacists to help decide whether it should relax restrictions on hiring them from abroad.

In its submission to the consultation – published yesterday (May 29) – Boots said it was “struggling to recruit [pharmacists] because of the level of competition and low number of applicants” and because “the job entails shift work or unsociable hours”.

The NPA submitted that “the long hours, including weekends and evenings, are making it difficult to recruit pharmacists” and warned particularly about a “chronic shortage” of pharmacists in Northern Ireland.

The consultation, which also included evidence from the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS), was launched to inform the review of the government’s ‘shortage occupation list’. The list decrees which professions qualify for relaxed restrictions on hiring workers from outside the European Union due to a shortage of resident, skilled applicants.

Impact of Brexit

For its submission, the RPS gathered responses from unnamed multiples and supermarket pharmacies, as well as a chain in Lincolnshire and a pharmacy in Sussex.

The RPS’s evidence – seen by C+D – shows that some employers have received fewer job applications from EU citizens since the Brexit referendum in 2016. One unnamed multiple recorded 43% fewer applications from EU citizens in 2018, compared with 2016.

The multiple told the RPS that it employs 78 EU citizens as pharmacists and applications “were always common”, but dropped “probably as a result of the Brexit referendum”.

An unnamed supermarket pharmacy also reported fewer EU pharmacists moving to the UK, blaming the phenomenon on “Brexit fear and the falling value of sterling”.

C+D has previously reported General Pharmaceutical Council figures showing that applications from the European Economic Area (the EU plus Iceland, Lichtenstein and Norway) plummeted 85% between the final quarter of 2016 and the second quarter of 2018.

“Insufficient evidence”

Other factors cited for the shortage included: pharmacists moving into other settings, including hospital and GP surgeries; pharmacists increasingly requesting part-time hours; and the lesser appeal of rural pharmacy compared with urban roles.

According to the RPS's submission, pharmacies have difficulties “finding interested” pharmacy technicians and accuracy checking technicians, and claimed pharmacies are reporting that the low premium of a dispenser’s wage over the national minimum wage “has made a dispenser’s position seem less valuable”.

While the government review recognised there are “some difficulties in recruiting pharmacists, especially in remote locations”, it decided there is “insufficient stakeholder evidence” of a chronic shortage of pharmacists, and as such, the profession should not be added to the ‘shortage occupation list’ at this time. Pharmacists were put on the list in 2008 and removed in 2011, according to the report.

Are you struggling to recruit pharmacists and pharmacy staff?

S J- Locum, Locum pharmacist


S J- Locum, Locum pharmacist

If there is such a SHORTAGE of pharmacists- why it is NOT reflected in the wages?

S J- Locum, Locum pharmacist


S J- Locum, Locum pharmacist


The multiples want cheap labour they can exploit unashamedly

They know if they raise the rates to reflect what we deserve there will be plenty of British pharmacists applying  The multiples didn’t succeed in Pharmacy APPRENTICESHIP ploy and now trying this excuse 

What a Load of ABSOLUTE RUBBISH that there is a shortage of pharmacists. I very much hope the Government consultation are taking heed of this - seriously



Benie Locum, Locum pharmacist

The government are a little busy at the moment selling the NHS Trump.

Ronald Trump, Pharmaceutical Adviser

Please could I add:

Poor working conditions.
Reduction in support staff.
Pay unreflective of responsibilty, education, experience, workload and profits generated by the business (I know net profit has decreased recently because of funding cuts etc, but multiples still profitable non-the-less).
Increasing Workload.
Unrelenting, daily pressure from management to hit unrealistic service targets.
Lack of professional autonomy and respect.
Lack of career prospects or opportunity to own my own business due to monopoly by multiples.

^^^That is why I left community pharmacy^^^

And it is now easier for pharmacists to do this as there are more opportunities to work in other areas e.g. GP surgeries, care homes, primary care. Also less registrants from EU.

Maybe one day I will return to communtity pharmacy if it is worth my while and I am treated well.

Sue Per, Locum pharmacist

The other key point missed is that the contractors have enjoyed an increase in payments since 2006, and have failed to pass on those increases to their fee earners. They have retained the extra profis and/or distributed between the management and shareholders.The two big American owned chains are now blaming drop in profits due to reduction in NHS payments, as an excuse to close more stores, under a guise of simple reorganisation and/or consolidation. These mercenary "Asset Strippers" will continue to do so, until there is a radical change in the NHS contract, and the paymaster claws back deeper and faster, until their reserves are depleted, and set sail to the west.

We could speed to the process by refusing to work for their paltry £19.00 p/h. 

The RPS has completely avoided in positively commenting on the flexibility and availability of the workforce in the U.K., while the NPA and the C&D editorial appease these slavemasters as usual, by commenting and publishing this article. The latter did not even invite the PDA to comment???, which would have provided a balanced argument!!....






Benie Locum, Locum pharmacist

Sometimes you wonder if the editorial team actually proof read articles before publishing. Evidence is manifold as to the state of community pharmacy and yet the content vomit inducing commentary from the multiples keeps coming.

A LOCUM, Community pharmacist

Boots are always trying to justify using cheap overseas pharmacists, i was replaced by 2 australians many years ago and when i did the maths , they worked out more expensive  ! They con theses pharmacists into a 3 year low paid contract , so on day 1 when the penny drops they can't wait to leave and do dodgy evening and weekend locum work. All i see is them scurring out at 5.30pm to go to work elsewEhre , when they should'nt , Very often i bump into them they say 'don't tell anyone i'm here', they live this life for the 3 years , then turn into permanent locums. Boots then replace them with more fresh meat from abroad ,.

Interleukin -2, Community pharmacist

Am not sure who your frustration is aimed at ? Boots or “cheap foreigners” as you put it.  There s something slightly off about your tone. Just so you know all throughout history humans have travelled to far away lands seeking to better their lot. Your Australians are no exception

A LOCUM, Community pharmacist

To answer your queries , my frustration is with Boots , they are the organ grinder , i'm aware that civiliaztion began in africa/middle east so we are all travellers here, the Australians were treat to free food and accomodation for the first month which they thorougly enjoyed and bragged about , whilst i was deemed 'expensive' can you explain that one ? 

Sanjay Patel, Locum pharmacist

I agree that there is no shortage of pharmacists it’s the rate of pay that is the heart of the issue as HR is the Multiples biggest expense,  I have no problem working unsociable hours as do many locums but want a fair remuneration for the shift offered 

RS Pharmacist, Primary care pharmacist

After reading this article I was just about to write about how Boots were making a poor case to relax the rules instead of remunerating pharmacist and other members of its staff fairly. However it seems it has all been covered in the other 32 comments.

Its not just pay, but working till 7pm most evenings was not why many joined the profession.




Caroline Jones, Community pharmacist

This is a bit cheeky from Boots! There is definitely not a shortage of pharmacists - the number of pharmacists coming through  each year has practically quadrupled since the late 90’s......

Community pharmacy is suffering because there are now more options for Pharmacists to be paid reasonably in other, the 8am - 6.30pm shifts with no proper breaks are not feasible when Pharmacists have childcare commitments.....very few childcare facilities take children from 7am to 7.30pm - and why would anyone willing want to put their children into daycare for 12.5hrs a day.....what’s the point in having them?.......very few options to start at 9am and finish at 3pm.....that I’m aware of.....even the 9-5 jobs have all but gone!

Combine this with the ever increasing workload, and dreadful pay conditions, no wonder they are feeling the pain of poor recruitment.

Offer flexible working, comparative pay to other pharmacy sectors and they might not find there’s such a problem!

Totally unacceptable for them to use the excuse there’s no Pharmacists in the let’s get ones from abroad who we can pay one in their right mind would accept a job that pays 40% less!

Chris Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

Its simple. Declining levels of pay and spiralling workloads.

R A, Community pharmacist

So multiples are finding it difficult to recruit pharmacists lets take a look at the factors responsible for this:

In 2006 Pharmacists earned £40k guess what now they earn between £30k to £40k. If the 2006 salary was adjusted for inflation of 2% it would be £51k for bog standard pharmacist job, not Pharmacist Manager just a pharmacist. This was prior to the introduction of MUR, flu jab and all other non-sense the multiples have conjured up. 

Workload has doubled and support staff level has halved so pharmacists are working at saturation point. 

The regulator can only regulate pharmacists but the only issue is the non-pharmacist management team is responsible for calling all the shots in community pharmacy. Ask yourself this do you want to work in a dangerous environment for which you have no real control over but are legally responsible for?

I find it laughable that they blame it on anti-social hours for recruitment issue. I think the revalidation system GPhC introduced will see a reduction in the number of registrants because many people on the register are more or less retired or others have switched careers. 

I can see it next year on the C+D the headline "Record fall in registrants reported by the GPhC". 

Benie Locum, Locum pharmacist

Excellent summary

anti-depressed Pharmacist, Manager

I'm sure hiring people from abroad will fix the 'unsociable hours' Sat/Sun and midnight shifts will magically turn into mon-fri 9-5 because the person was hired from overseas. Yes that must be the reason...


Meanwhile hospital pharmacists have an on-call system but there does not seem to be any shortage of hospital pharmacists.


Very strange.

S J- Locum, Locum pharmacist

They think Europeans are Thick/Stupid? Not any longer 

Dodo pharmacist, Community pharmacist

If they paid £100k per year there would be no shortage of applicants 

S J- Locum, Locum pharmacist

The least we deserve!

Benie Locum, Locum pharmacist

But it's the unsociable hours they cry. Lmao.

Chris Locum, Locum pharmacist

There are more than enough pharmacists in the UK. The recruitment issue is simple; more of them decided they did not want to work in a dangerous working environment with a lack of demoralised (and overworked) support staff. Working office hours won't get them running towards these toxic positions. They may seek office hours in another career instead of putting their mental health and liberty on the line.

Reeyah H, Community pharmacist

There is definitely a shortage of pharmacists who are willing to work for a lot less money than they rightfully deserve. The same goes for other staff in the pharmacy too. Who wants all that stress for stupid money? Add in working for a multiple, and the answer is a big fat no! They should not, however, be allowed to suggest that perhaps pharmacists from abroad should be recruited. Pay our well- which starts with better funding. It’s no rocket science! 

Peter Smith, Student

As a pharmacist I had no issue with unsociable hours, and was never money-motivated, so had no issue with getting paid less than my other pharmacist friends. The issue was the bullying, harrasment, and generally being treated like a sub-human piece of garbage. So basically the same as what the other comments are saying.

We live in the information age, and pharmacists are certainly not stupid. It's easy to find out from friends and the internet how the big chains treat their staff - if nobody wants their jobs then maybe they should be asking why? I wouldn't go back to my previous employer for a million pounds a year, it's just not worth it.

Being able to sleep at night, and being happy and able to enjoy my life instead of being chronically depressed, is worth more than any amount of money.

If only I was a bit younger and slimmer, maybe I could have found my fame and fortune on the latest untalented pseudo-celebrity on the beach or in the jungle with not many clothes on.

dave de cat, Community pharmacist

saturation of pharmacists rather than a shortage

Adam Hall, Community pharmacist

Too many snowflakes not prepared to work week-ends & evenings!

Zegai Ermias, Community pharmacist

that is very ignorant comment? have you worked for boots being pushed and pulled by non-pharmacist pharmacy manager. this and pay is the issue. if you pay them well and treat them well there is no problem. I for myself i will never work for boots whilst this curture exists. I hope all pharmacists boycott boots but i know this will never happen.

Caroline Jones, Community pharmacist

Mmm......not sure that’s the reason!

Benie Locum, Locum pharmacist

Wrong. They're just not prepared to accept sh***y money and being treated like cr&p.


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