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PDA, PSNC…who’s right about workforce shortages?

There is a difference of opinion over whether there are staff shortages in pharmacy.

A tug-of-war over what is reality, what is fantasy seems to be going on within pharmacy at the moment.

The Pharmacists’ Defence Association said a majority of members (63 per cent) who took part in its workforce survey do not believe there is a shortage of pharmacists. Its chairman Mark Koziol insisted the findings appeared “to debunk the idea” that shortages were responsible for rising vacancy rates at the large multiples.

That was at odds with the PSNC’s more recent study which this month claimed 91 per cent of pharmacies are enduring staff shortages. Both surveys painted a gloomy picture; the former about allegedly poor working conditions at the big chains (unsatisfactory pay, lack of professional fulfilment, poor management), the latter a grim snapshot into the daily grind of pharmacy teams across the country who are contending with workload and funding pressures and its impact on their mental health.

When ICP asked the PDA for its take on the PSNC survey, and more specifically whether the negotiator’s findings undermined its own study on workforce shortages, the PDA insisted “there are more pharmacists in the UK than ever before.”

It repeated its claim that unfilled vacancies are not down to workforce shortages but disillusioned staff who have had enough of the working conditions at some companies, resulting in a recruitment and retention challenge for employers. The Company Chemists’ Association maintains there is a genuine workforce shortage.

The PSNC’s study, which garnered responses from 5,000 pharmacy premises and 1,000 pharmacy team members, was bitingly contrasting. It found two-thirds of pharmacies were forced to reduce their services and 29 per cent cut back their opening hours.

Just 34 per cent said they had the capacity to roll out new services moving forward and 98 per cent reported that staff shortages were heaping more pressure on pharmacy teams. Eighty-two per cent said greater pressures in the workplace were having a negative impact on their mental health.

PSNC chief executuve Janet Morrison said the findings made for "distressing reading for anybody in the sector" and insisted the financial, workforce and workload pressures on community pharmacies were "simply unreasonable and unsustainable."

The PSNC used the results as ammunition in its funding talks with the government and NHS England and Improvement. It may have an impact.

God knows what they would make of the PDA survey.

Neil Trainis is the editor of Independent Community Pharmacist.

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