Community pharmacy workforce is in a fragile condition and faced a shortfall of 3,000 pharmacists in England over a period of five years, a recent research conducted by the Company Chemists’ Association (CCA) has revealed.
It noted that over the last five years, the net growth of community pharmacists in England a year stood at 733. This is much lower than the required average growth of 1,025, based on data reported by the Health Education England workforce survey from 2021.
Acknowledging the discrepancies in the data calculation, the paper published by the association has used “the best available data” to highlight recent changes to the community pharmacy workforce in England.
The report noted that despite an increase in the number of pharmacists, many contractors reported an increase in pharmacist vacancies. They also reported a significant increase in locum hourly pay rates, indicating demand exceeds supply.
The CCA report highlighted other factors for workforce shortages, such as:
Changing work patterns: The report cited increased part time working, reduced working hours and portfolio working as main reasons for this condition.
The 2021 HEE workforce survey reported that average number of pharmacists by headcount per store increased to 2.43 from 1.97 in 2017, meaning on average each store had 0.46 more pharmacists. As per the CCA’s estimate, around 1,025 more pharmacists are required each year to retain equilibrium.
High vacancy rates among pharmacy support staff: The HEE 2021 workforce survey found a considerable growth in vacancies rate among support staff, which would have an impact on the workload of pharmacists.
Recruitment in Primary Care Networks (PCNs): The CCA noted that in December 2021, NHS E/I confirmed recruiting around 3,500 pharmacists into PCNs with an estimated 2,100 recruits from community pharmacy. Assuming 62 per cent of pharmacists work in community pharmacy, the CCA report estimated that around 2,385 came from the community setting.
It noted that other factors that affect the community pharmacy workforce include the growing number of non-practicing pharmacists, impact of broader portfolio working, population growth, cross border working, etc.