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NHS?pharmacist numbers hold steady while vacancy rates fall

By Clinical Pharmacist

NHS pharmacist numbers in England and Wales remained fairly constant in the period from May 2010 to May 2011, according to figures from this year’s national NHS pharmacy staffing establishment and vacancy survey.

The survey results, which did not cover Scotland this year (see below), reveal that the number of pharmacist establishments reduced by only 0.1% in England and 0.4% in Wales over the period.  

Susan Sanders, NHS Pharmacy Education and Development Committee survey facilitator, commented: “I am heartened to find that we haven’t lost many posts for pharmacists or pharmacy technicians within the NHS. I think there is some acknowledgement that pharmacy teams have a significant contribution to make to the QIPP agenda and medicines optimisation, and are critical for patient safety and governance.”

The survey results also showed that, compared with last year’s findings, the vacancy rate in England reduced from 15.7% to 11.3% for hospital pharmacists in band 6 and from 17.6% to 11.3% for those in band 7.

These results were welcomed by Dave Thornton, Guild of Healthcare Pharmacists vice-chairman: “We are pleased to note that the vacancy problem for band 6 and 7 pharmacists has improved again in England this year. However, we are still concerned about the vacancy level in Wales, with band 6 vacancies at 19.4% and band 7 at 13.9%.”

Mrs Sanders added: “Although these vacancy rates have improved dramatically over recent years, the NHS is still not fully staffed at junior pharmacist grades.”

Furthermore, the survey authors found that about 121 pharmacist posts in England and Wales are considered to be at risk. “Obviously, these are challenging financial times for the NHS and it will be interesting to see what the 2012 survey reveals, because things will have moved on since May this year,” Mrs Sanders told Clinical Pharmacist.

She went on: “Changes within NHS organisations, particularly in primary care, have meant that collecting these data has already, this year, been a huge challenge compared with last year. I expect that next year it will be equally if not more challenging as the NHS landscape continues to evolve.”

Scottish statistics

Pharmacy workforce statistics for Scotland have been made available separately. The figures form part of workforce data for the whole of NHSScotland.

The number of established pharmacist posts in Scotlandincreased by 2% in the period from September 2010 to September 2011. The number of pharmacy technician posts also increased by 2% over the same period.

The vacancy rates reported for band 6 and 7 pharmacists were 7.0% and 6.2%, respectively.

Citation: Clinical Pharmacist URI: 11090880

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