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Workforce planning in a changing landscape for pharmacy

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Pharmacy is undergoing major developments that are affecting its workforce. For example, primary care and GP-based pharmacist numbers are increasing, hospitals are employing emergency department pharmacists and are increasing extended hours or weekend service provision and there is pressure from the government for community pharmacy to adopt hub-and-spoke dispensing while dealing a blow to its funding.

For the average pharmacist or pharmacy technician this brings opportunity and worry in equal measure. Those pharmacy professionals lucky enough to get one of these new posts have got the exciting prospect of being on the forefront of the development of the profession. These new roles also have an element of risk in the ever changing NHS, and pharmacy needs to demonstrate both the patient and financial benefits it can deliver.

In order to deliver new services, workforce planning at regional and national level need to be co-ordinated, taking into account the evolving nature of the profession. For example, senior prescribing pharmacists are being employed in new advanced practitioner roles, so vacancies will appear that need to be filled.

Also, challenges are appearing in ensuring that pharmacists have the appropriate qualifications — in particular, prescribing and clinical skills courses are in great demand. In some cases there are waiting lists for these courses, such as independent prescribing qualifications, and this is slowing down the speed with which new services can be developed.

As a pharmacist who manages a hospital pharmacy team, I have noticed that these developments for the profession are also starting to have an impact on the recruitment of technicians and pharmacists. This is a particular problem with junior and newly registered pharmacists. Inevitably, each year, pre-registration trainees all qualify in the summer and there is a big recruitment drive from all sectors to fill posts. It can then become challenging to fill vacancies for the remainder of the year. In March this year, for example, we could only recruit for two out of three vacancies. We have, since then, had a number of other posts vacated because pharmacists have acquired jobs in the new clinical roles. I now have the headache of trying to get job advertisements out swiftly and candidates interviewed before the pool of pre-registration trainees is exhausted.

Only recently there were doom-and-gloom stories for pharmacy that we would have too many graduates for posts. In reality my experience is that it can often be difficult to recruit. This leads to posts being left vacant leading to challenges in maintaining services and delivering on developing the new clinical roles. Pharmacists and technicians at the start of their careers should feel optimistic about the opportunities ahead of them. They should not panic and accept the first job they are offered through a concern about a lack of vacancies. The vacancies for their first clinical jobs are out there if they go and look for them and there is an ever expanding number of career options to them as they gain experience. In addition, the profession needs to engage with workforce planning to ensure we can maximise the opportunities that are developing.

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