In recent years, the CCA has become increasingly concerned about growing pressures on the community pharmacy workforce and its impact on patient care. An overstretched workforce has already led to the temporary closure of many pharmacies.
Robust workforce data is crucial to support awareness, underpin policymaking and to inform forward planning. We warmly welcome this survey as a first step to understanding the state of the community pharmacy workforce. However, we do recognise the data has been obtained from a survey to which less than 50% of the sector responded.
Our members report pharmacist vacancy rates as an area of significant concern. The HEE workforce survey shows that vacancy rates for pharmacists have more than doubled since 2017. Recruitment is especially challenging in the Southwest of England where 80% of respondents reported difficulties in filling pharmacist vacancies.
In addition, the reported reductions in pharmacy staff have created pressures for everyone else in the team, on top of ever-increasing workloads, leading to burn out. Our members have also reported shifts in working practices. This includes reduced working hours, increased part-time working and broader portfolio working. These factors all affect pharmacies’ ability to meet the increasing demands of a growing population. We are concerned that the nuances of changing working practices have not been reflected in this survey.
The need for collecting robust information is clear. However, it should be recognised that this data only represents a snapshot of the workforce from Spring 2021. We are concerned that the increased workload resulting from the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and financial pressures in the latter half of 2021 have pushed the workforce to the brink. There is, therefore, a need for regular data collection to reflect the evolving workforce landscape.
The CCA, with the Community Pharmacy Workforce Development Group, is committed to ensure community pharmacy remains a career of choice for both the current and future pharmacy workforce. We will be undertaking further data collection and analysis to understand the extent of staff shortages and advise NHS E/I on workforce planning.
Malcolm Harrison, CEO of the CCA said:
“We welcome the HEE’s efforts to quantify the extent of the issues around recruitment and headcount within the community pharmacy workforce. Robust and up to date data collection is our best tool to inform effective workforce planning for the future and we at the CCA will continue to advocate for evidence-led decision making.”