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Community Pharmacy employers try to lower salary expectations of new pharmacists

At a time when some claim there is a shortage of pharmacists and that many students are now joining pharmacy courses only through the university clearing process, a group of employers have launched a website that suggests pharmacists could earn as little as £12 an hour.

Thu 7th October 2021 The PDA

Eighteen years ago, when the PDA was founded, locum pharmacists were being paid £29.00 per hour.  Yet, the main representatives of Community Pharmacy employers in Britain have launched a website* that tells potential pharmacists that “A newly qualified pharmacist can expect to earn around £25,000-35,000 per year.” When applied to the 40 hours per week standard contract at the largest employer, this annual salary would equate to a potential starting salary of just £12.02 per hour for a fully qualified pharmacist.

Many pharmacists on social media were quick to contrast the content of this new website with the higher starting salary, benefits and earning potential offered to graduates of any discipline by low-cost supermarket stores and similar employers recruiting store manager type roles.

While there is nothing wrong with a career in retail, pharmacists are a masters-level profession, taking responsibility for the safety of patients and making critical decisions regarding medicines and care.

The PDA had delayed commenting on this website suggestion, in the hope this was a typographical error that would be soon corrected. However, the website continues to suggest that is the level of pay a future pharmacist should expect to earn.

The website appears to be the latest unhelpful contribution from employer representative bodies despite their claims that they want to recruit more pharmacists. It follows a disappointing report from the same three major community pharmacy employer bodies published in June. That report highlighted “a potential workforce crisis that is driven by difficulties in both recruiting and retaining colleagues” but ended with nine recommendations for others to act, but not a single commitment about what the employers would do.

This was followed in September, when the employer representatives in Scotland sought to prevent pharmacists from securing alternative employment in other areas of practice, by blocking recruitment into GP practices.

The PDA represent over 32,000 members, listen to pharmacists and reflect their views. Existing pharmacists are constantly raising the real issues that need addressing in community pharmacy, but employers seem intent on doing everything other than fixing the problems which only they have the ability to change.

Pay has dropped significantly compared to inflation, meaning real terms cuts to the purchasing power of the income employed pharmacists need to support themselves and their families. Suggesting expectations should be set even lower and implying that that is where employers want to base future salaries, as this new website does, is neither going to encourage additional entrants to the profession, nor encourage existing practitioners to stay.

However, levels of pay are not the only concern, and it is widely known that some pharmacists have left community pharmacy for roles practicing elsewhere in the health system, even though some of these roles are lower paid.

The PDA’s Safer Pharmacies Charter and annual Safer Pharmacies Survey highlight other areas of significant concern to pharmacists, but to date, no major community pharmacy employer has agreed to ensure conditions in their pharmacies will not drop below the basic safety standards detailed in the charter. The PDA is more than willing to work with employers that want to commit to meeting and surpassing these standards.

The PDA believe that multiple chains in particular should not ignore the message they should be hearing when some locums publicly state that they will not work in certain branches, or for entire companies, because they believe the conditions in those pharmacies are unacceptable.

The PDA call on employers to stop avoiding the real issues, to listen to the voice of their existing and potential employees, and act to rebuild the reputation of the pharmacist role in community pharmacy as a professionally fulfilling, safe and fairly paid career choice.


[*UPDATE: Within hours of this article being published the section of the employers’ website discussing pharmacist salaries was taken offline, hence the above link now goes to an unavailable page.]

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