Shortage of young pharmacists ‘threat to community sector’

Conference hears qualified people are leaving the profession to pursue other careers

The shortage of young qualified pharmacists poses a threat to the community pharmacy sector, the conference heard.

The shortage of young qualified pharmacists poses a threat to the community pharmacy sector, the conference heard.

 

The shortage of qualified young pharmacists who wish to practise in community pharmacy is a major threat to the future of the sector, their representative body has said.

The Irish Pharmacy Union’s national pharmacy conference is taking place in Croke Park in Dublin this weekend.

Cork-based pharmacist Caitriona O’Riordan, a member of the executive committee, told the event there was evidence that young qualified pharmacists were either not entering community pharmacy or were leaving the profession.

Many were deciding to pursue careers in other areas.

“The reasons for this are varied but we know that one major off-putting factor is excessive and increasing levels of administration and bureaucracy, coupled with a perception that their professional skills are underutilised in comparison to their colleagues in other countries,” Ms O’Riordan said.

The conference heard that in the UK the role of the pharmacist extends far beyond the scope allowed in Ireland, with pharmacists allowed to prescribe for minor ailments.

In Canada, the scope of practice has been extended to include monitoring patients with chronic illnesses, and renewing and adjusting their prescriptions.

“Community practice is no longer attractive to young pharmacy graduates, who are frustrated that their knowledge and skills are not properly utilised by a system that fails to recognise them,” Ms O’Riordan said.

“They seek more rewarding careers in other settings. This problem will, if not addressed, have serious ramifications, not just for community pharmacy, but for the wider community.”

She urged that pharmacists be allowed to expand their scope of services to make the sector more attractive.

This would ensure they could practise their chosen profession “rather than act as outsourced bureaucrats”.

“The last thing we want is to see, due to a lack of qualified staff, is our smaller villages and towns losing their local pharmacy, particularly when we see that happening already with other healthcare professionals including GPs and community nurses,” Ms O’Riordan added.

Separately, a survey commissioned by the IPU suggested 86 per cent of the public believed pharmacists provide “good value for money”.

Some 93 per cent of people surveyed said the healthcare services provided by community pharmacists were “very accessible”.

A total of 78 per cent regarded pharmacists as easy to talk to about healthcare problems or issues.

The IPU said the survey was based on a representative sample of 1,014 adults and conducted by the Behaviour and Attitudes research company from March 13th to April 5th this year.