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Planning the pharmacy workforce: is there a shortage of pharmacists?

In the last of five articles on the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’spharmacy workforce survey, David Guest, Ali Budjanovcanin and PatriciaOakley link the 2004 survey findings to estimates of future demand forpharmacists and conclude that some sectors of practice may face along-term shortage

by David Guest, Ali Budjanovcanin and Patricia Oakley

In the last of five articles on the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s pharmacy workforce survey, David Guest, Ali Budjanovcanin and Patricia Oakley link the 2004 survey findings to estimates of future demand for pharmacists and conclude that some sectors of practice may face a long-term shortage

 

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Summary

Our final article in this series focuses on the future demand for pharmacists and link this to our findings from the 2004 pharmacy workforce survey. We can incorporate the information on demand for and supply of pharmacists into a planning model and then test the implications of possible variations in factors affecting both supply and demand.

By identifying probable changes in the most likely factors, we can then begin to make projections about whether or not there will be sufficient pharmacists to meet the demands placed on them in the future.

Workforce planning in the NHS has traditionally made projections about future needs by looking at past supply trends. This may be adequate when there is a stable environment and little pressure to change.

However, this approach gives potentially erroneous results when conditions are more volatile, for example, when there are changes in technology coupled with changes in consumers’ tastes, such as wanting extended opening hours.

We need to examine developments affecting demand alongside information about the pharmacist workforce, including changes in the numbers of pharmacists as well as whether pharmacists are likely to be satisfied and committed to their work and willing to work extra hours if the demand requires it.

A close examination of the demands for pharmacy services reported on in 2005 shows that, in 2002–03, pharmacists were employed in the following areas:

  • Community pharmacy About 66 per cent of pharmacists were deployed in 12,206 pharmacies, of which about 46 per cent were independently owned and small chain businesses (fewer than five outlets) and 54 per cent were small, medium or large chain and supermarket businesses (five or more outlets)
  • NHS hospital and primary care pharmacy About 24 per cent of pharmacists were employed in this sector — about 18 per cent in NHS hospitals and 6 per cent in primary care organisations
  • Pharmaceutical industry and its supplier and support agencies About 5.5 per cent of pharmacists were employed in this sector
  • Schools of pharmacy About 2.2 per cent of pharmacists were employed in schools of pharmacy

We can get an idea of changes in demand by analysing relevant government policies, industry reviews and publicly quoted company accounts.

To assess the significance of these and how they might combine, we also drew on information from an extensive panel of experts and sought to arrive at some consensus among them about the most likely developments.

The outcome of this process reveals that there are broadly three complementary themes that have driven, and are driving, an increase in the demand for pharmacy services and pharmacists’ time.

  • Healthcare expansion The “healthcare expansion” theme, consisting of the growing underlying demands for more services that are required to support an ageing population; government funding policies for the NHS and universities; and the development of gene technology, novel treatments and delivery systems to treat previously untreatable or low prognostic conditions
  • Organisation of pharmacy provision The “organisation of pharmacy provision” theme, consisting of the changing working and technological environment, for example, the range of services available and extended opening hours in the retail sector; and the expectations for safer and novel treatments that can be brought to the market more quickly than in the past
  • Professional quality assurance The “professional quality assurance” theme, consisting of extending the legal and regulatory imperatives to improve patient safety and extending the role of pharmacists through the new contracts

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal URI: 10043385

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