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Pharmacists working in Northern Ireland think the retention fees are too high, and most would prefer to pay in instalments, if that option is available, amid the increased living costs, a new survey has found.

97 per cent of the respondents to the survey, conducted by the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) of its Northern Irish members, felt the fees were too high. Four in five said they would opt to pay in instalments if this option were available to them in light of the challenges of significant one-off payments.

On average, the fees accounted for 23 per cent of a pharmacist’s take-home pay for one month, and 98 per cent did not see any value added to their professional standing for the sum, according to the survey.

The PDA said the respondents also reported feeling disadvantaged among their colleagues in terms of how fees are collected, with many also wondering why the registration fee was not offset for those on maternity leave or working reduced or flexible hours.

“Traditionally, the counterargument for amending fee payment has been that it requires legislative change. This is outdated,” the PDA said.

“It has been demonstrated throughout the pandemic, and its continued outworking, that when the will for legislative change exists, it can be accomplished. This is highlighted by other legislative changes in progress that affect the profession. Other medical, nursing, and various AHP professional bodies offer a facility to pay in instalments and acknowledge flexible working arrangements and offer reduced fee payment accordingly,” it noted.

The survey also highlighted the issues like the failure to address the gender pay gap and a lack of parity with healthcare colleagues.

“It’s time for stakeholders to listen to the pharmacist’s voice, engage, and address the inequality with regards to professional fees. It’s time to examine the issues raised by members and to make a change which will benefit PDA members and all pharmacists working in Northern Ireland,” the association said.

Earlier this year, the PDA has brought a motion to the Irish Congress of Trade Unions seeking parity of terms and conditions for pharmacists within the health and social care sector. The motion was unanimously passed, and Congress pledged to support fair treatment, the voice of pharmacists, and pharmacists’ enhanced representation via the PDA Union.

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