I have been speaking about the profession of pharmacy being on the edge of an abyss for some time. It doesn’t seem to matter much and few people seem to be doing much about it.
The problem is simple – there are too many pharmacists coming out of University. This is compounded by too few pre-registration places creating a struggle for all new graduates to become fully qualified. Once qualified, they join a ‘glut’ of pharmacists on the market trying to gain employment. Employers will take advantage by downgrading job specifications and in community pharmacy downgrading the rates.
The problem is compounded by the proposed pharmacy cuts of 6% which will undoubtedly be taken out of the community pharmacy overhead. And by a stream of pharmacists from overseas taking locums at ever decreasing rates.
The problem will hit technicians soon as pay scales overlap and merge.
The solution is not simple, but there are some key elements.
- We have a University system which is based on ‘bums on seats’. So you cannot blame them for opening new courses if they feel that they can bring in needed revenue for the University. I don’t actually want to limit the number of pharmacists as long as the Universities can assure their quality and competence.
- The NHS Alliance led the way with Pharmacists and General Practice – a report delivered 18 months ago that kick started the rush. There may be 1,000 pharmacists in to General Practice by the end of the year – we need that to be 3,000. The NHS Alliance has also been involved in the ‘making time in General Practice’ report and part of their road shows advocating the emerging role of pharmacists in General Practice.
- The value of proactive clinical community pharmacy needs to be emphasised and the contract negotiation and working strategy is to have two pharmacists on duty in the busier pharmacies all the time. This is linked to the pharmacies’ ability to federate and become providers of an increased range of local services. And to take a leading role in the retail professional healthcare market place.
- Hospitals play their part of course as do CCG employed pharmacists – building connections, driving clinical specialism and refocussing medicines optimisation.
All we need now is a leader and a leadership body that can bring all of this together.