A leading community pharmacy contractor has endorsed the government’s Kickstart employment scheme by saying that it has helped his pharmacies cope with staff shortages caused by Covid-19 isolations and increased workload during the pandemic.
Speaking as a panellist at a virtual discussion hosted by chancellor Rishi Sunak on the government scheme on Thursday (Jan 29), Raj Patel took the opportunity to speak about an inadequate level of government funding for community pharmacy. Chancellor Sunak, for his part, recalled his own experience working in an independent pharmacy at a young age.
The owner of Hollowood Chemists, a group of community pharmacies in the North West, Patel was also joined by his Kickstart recruit Ellen Tait who has been working in one of his pharmacies for the last three months who spoke how the scheme has benefited her.
Raj Patel is also a board member of the National Pharmacy Association, which in November began a partnership with the recruitment company Reed to enable independent pharmacies to sign up for the Kickstart scheme.
As part of the scheme, the Department for Work and Pensions pays wages and employment costs for a six-month job placement for 16 to 24-year-olds.
Speaking immediately after the panel discussion, Patel said: “I have 32 Kickstarters, who have been working alongside my teams in our very busy pharmacies in Greater Manchester. They have helped my teams tremendously and are also supporting us with our three Covid vaccination centres which opened two weeks ago.
“We’re delighted to be helping young people get a foothold in employment. A career in community pharmacy is demanding, but it also puts you in the privileged position of being able to help people and save lives. That’s been very clear during the Covid pandemic.
“This is a super initiative for employers and young people, but I felt I had to mention the funding pressures on our sector. After all, if pharmacies are going to survive and continue to provide employment into the future, we need the Chancellor’s support.”
The first phase of Kickstart applications via the NPA and Reed in November attracted over 700 placements for community pharmacies. The second phase, which ran in December, had over 600 applications. A third phase of the scheme has just opened.