Cathy Harrison, NI chief pharmaceutical officer (left) and Sheelin McKeagney, chairman, Pharmacy Forum NI

More than 1,100 additional roles across the pharmacy sector in Northern Ireland will be required over the next five years, the professional leadership body for pharmacists in NI has revealed.

The opportunities will see current vacancies filled as well as new roles created in response to the development of new pharmacy services, which will include up to 560 community, hospital and general practice pharmacists and over 600 pharmacy technicians.

Search and recruitment will be supported by the ‘Pharmacy Futures NI’ joint campaign, launched on Monday (Nov 11) by the Department of Health and Pharmacy Forum NI.

Sheelin McKeagney from Pharmacy Forum NI said: “Over the past decade in particular we have seen demand for pharmacists increase significantly as hospitals introduced seven day working and new roles have been created in the hospital and general practice sectors – many of which have been filled by experienced community pharmacists.

“While all of these factors have placed enormous pressures on the existing workforce, they have given us an opportunity to attract, recruit and retain more pharmacists into the sector in Northern Ireland.”

The requirement for the roles has been identified in the Department’s ‘Pharmacy Workforce Review’ which was published today. It is designed to inform Health and Social Care workforce development needs in the pharmacy sector over the next 10 years.

Developed specifically to respond to the review’s recommendations, ‘Pharmacy Futures NI’ is initially aimed at students thinking of entering the profession and pharmacists working away from home who may be thinking of returning to Northern Ireland.

Cathy Harrison, NI chief pharmaceutical officer, explained:  “Over the last 30 years the pharmacy profession has been on a transition from the traditional dispensing of medicines to patient facing clinical roles. This expanding clinical role of pharmacists, supported by pharmacy technicians and adoption of technologies such as automation and robots, has resulted in greater effectiveness and importantly better health outcomes for patients.

“Consequently, these professional groups are in high demand and this will only continue to grow in the coming years – bringing a need to recruit additional pharmacists, alongside skilled pharmacy technicians and pharmacy support staff.”

The Pharmacy Futures NI campaign, which will promote pharmacy as a career of choice in Northern Ireland will run from today until early January 2021. Over 30 ‘Pharmacy Champions’ will act as key communicators during the campaign, charting their career pathways and sharing their career highlights and experiences in the profession.

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