Pharmacists are leaving GP practices to return to community
By Neil Trainis
Avon local pharmaceutical committee chief officer Richard Brown has said pharmacists in his area are starting to leave general practice and return to community pharmacy because they have become frustrated at having “very little” patient contact and not enough clinical services to do in practices.
In an interview with Independent Community Pharmacist, to be published next month, Brown (pictured) said NHS England’s drive to get pharmacists into practices as well as funding them to employ up to 20,000 additional staff, including “clinical” pharmacists, through the Additional Roles Reimbursement Scheme has had “a massive impact” on the community pharmacy workforce across the country.
But he revealed some GP pharmacists are becoming frustrated having discovered their roles are “not all they are cracked up to be” and suggested regular contact with patients in community pharmacy was also encouraging pharmacists in other parts of the country to leave general practice.
“I can’t change whether (pharmacists work in practices) or not. What I can do is make community pharmacy in my patch in Avon more appealing to come and work in because there’s more clinical services to do,” he said.
“I’m starting to see a migration out of general practice back into my community pharmacies. Now this is only just starting to happen because pharmacists who have historically worked in their local community pharmacy have actually got frustrated with the fact they work in general practice and have very little patient contact.
“The roles are not all they are cracked up to be and, as a result, because we’ve now got more clinical services happening in our community pharmacies, we’ve got pharmacists now looking at community as ‘I’d like to move back.’
“This is within pharmacies that are within Avon and I’m quite sure that’s happening in other parts of the country. That’s because community pharmacists generally like public contact. They like the fact that different things happen every day. They like the fact they get to talk to members of the public. They like the fact that they get to be the health centre on the high street. All of those things are really rewarding to a community pharmacist.”
Brown said although community pharmacies are struggling to stay open because of poor funding, community pharmacists see the impact of their work on the health and wellbeing of their patients.
“Although the job at the minute has never been harder, our pharmacists go to work because they deliver benefits to their local communities,” he said. “Lots of people will tell you how bad it is because they’re noisy people and it is really bad and it’s really hard. But there are also lots of pharmacists out there who would’ve worked tirelessly and would’ve loved the impact they made to their patients and their local community.
“And there are definitely pharmacists working in general practice who are now seeing the fact that actually, the grass is not greener.”
However, Brown said it has “never been as hard to find a pharmacist to work in community pharmacy as it is at the minute,” largely because government funding in the last decade has not allowed wages to increase.
“The gap now between minimum wage and our pharmacy colleagues I don’t think has ever been smaller and, in some instances, it doesn’t exist. There is no gap,” he said. “Dispensers are paid, in some instances, a small increase on top of minimum wage, if at all. But also, the gap between the pharmacy team and the pharmacists who are clinically accountable for everything that’s going on in there, is shrinking as well.
“I’m all for paying all of our colleagues and our pharmacists the right salary but one of the things that’s happened over the last 10 years, so greater than the length of this contract, is because the funding has been driven down at such a level, the pharmacy sector pay rises have not been able to keep pace.”
He revealed that as an area manager at LloydsPharmacy 15 years ago, he was paying his pharmacy managers the same salaries they are on now and one manager was earning more than what is being offered today.
“When you look back, that’s probably one of the most damaging things that has occurred to the profession; the funding model has not allowed the pharmacist’s salary to keep pace,” Brown said.
“I was talking to an A level student recently who had been really interested in going into pharmacy but felt the amount of money they were going to get as a salary didn’t warrant the investment in going to university. That was really sad.”