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Universal staffing difficulties reported by Scottish pharmacy owners

More than 700 community pharmacists in Scotland report staffing difficulties, which is being exacerbated by a shortage of students and EU migrants.

Every respondent to a Community Pharmacy Scotland (CPS) survey has reported having staffing issues. 

CPS told The Pharmaceutical Journal that 60% of its 1,256 members responded to its unpublished survey on pressures facing Scottish community pharmacy, with every response anecdotally referring to staffing difficulties. 

Following the survey, Harry McQuillan, chief executive of CPS, wrote to the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) on 17 October 2018 expressing concern that “community pharmacy feels unsustainable” owing to a variety of pressures.

In the letter, he said: “There is a shortage of pharmacists for the posts available and this has led to a reliance on locums.

“Many pharmacies cannot find enough locums to help with this shortfall, and this is especially acute in rural areas. These factors are also raising locum prices, which further exacerbates the financial pressure in pharmacies.

“Pharmacies are just managing to employ enough skilled pharmacy staff, however there is concern that it is not a sustainable overhead cost to maintain in the long run.”

In its response to an October 2018 Scottish government survey on the funding model for community pharmacy prescribing clinics, the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) attributed a shortfall to the increasing number of pharmacists moving to work in GP surgeries following the overhaul of the General Medical Services contract in Scotland.

The contract, which came into effect in April 2018, promised every GP surgery in Scotland a pharmacotherapy service that would review clinical medications, monitor high-risk medicines and authorise all acute and repeat prescribing requests.

The NPA said sustainable pharmacist prescribing clinics needed enough community pharmacists to “backfill’ regular community pharamcy roles, and it added: “The NPA is also aware that a shortage of pharmacists may be developing in some areas of Scotland which could be exacerbated by the influx of pharmacists into GP practice supporting roles and the potential negative impact of Brexit on migration of pharmacists from the EU.”

An spokesperson for the NPA told The Pharmaceutical Journal: “Several factors could be contributing to the shortage of pharmacists which may have developed in areas of Scotland. We understand members are having difficulty in arranging locums at times and in the Highlands and Grampian areas we hear of problems in maintaining long term employee managers.

“The impact of Brexit is likely to affect pharmacists moving from the EU in the future and a decline of pharmacy student graduates from universities could further exacerbate a shortage issue.”

In October 2018, pharmacy bodies warned the House of Commons Health and Social Care committee that a ‘no-deal’ Brexit could lead to recruitment difficulties.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2018.20205759

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