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Is there likely to be a surplus of pharmacists in the future?

From Mr M. Taylor, MRPharmS

I have noticed in recent years the opening of a number of new schools of pharmacy. The shortage of pharmacists in the UK means that an increase in pharmacy graduates (and therefore, hopefully, newly qualified pharmacists) should be welcome news to pharmacy owners. However, I wonder how much thought has been given to the number of new pharmacy graduates the country actually needs. From the start of my undergraduate degree we were constantly reminded that no pharmacists were short of work and how secure a job as a pharmacist was.

The Government boasts an increase of pharmacy students of a third within the past decade and predicts further increases with the opening of new schools of pharmacy.1 Does this increase in graduates sound proportionate to the current shortage or is it likely to produce a surplus of pharmacists in the UK? A surplus will be good news for the big pharmacy chains, but bad news for the individual pharmacist who is likely to see downward pressure on wages and decreased job security. I would like to know if the Royal Pharmaceutical Society has any predictions of how many pharmacists there are likely to be in 10 years and how close this figure will be to the likely demand for pharmacists? If the Society is to protect the interests of its members it has a duty to ensure that the output of pharmacy schools approximately matches the predicted demand for pharmacists.

Michael Taylor
Wallasey, Merseyside


1. Department of Health. A vision for pharmacy in the new NHS. London: The Department;2003.

SUE AMBLER, head of research and development at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, responds:

Understanding the workforce is one of the three themes in the five-year research and development strategy of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s Council. Over the past five years, the Society has been investing considerable resources in understanding the supply of, and demand for, workforce in pharmacy. More recently, and working in partnership with the health departments in England, Scotland and Wales, the Society has developed and tested a workforce model that enables the impact of policy (in health, education and trade and industry) on pharmacy workforce to be evaluated. The model has already been used to assess a number of different policy scenarios and all those that include the current expansion of new schools (and the expansion in student numbers in the existing schools) demonstrate that the number of pharmacists available to the workforce is unlikely to outstrip demand in the foreseeable future.

The research has all been, or is about to be published, and is available from the Society’s website. The information is thus available for all stakeholders and individual pharmacists to read and consider — including those organisations whose responsibilities cover representing the interests of individual pharmacists and negotiating their terms, conditions and remuneration. I should point out that it is not and never has been the role of the Society to negotiate terms and conditions for members, but by publishing the results of our research we can legitimately inform wider debates.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal URI: 10019659

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