Navigating Opportunities: A Recently Qualified Pharmacist's Insight in a Changing Landscape

Navigating Opportunities: A Recently Qualified Pharmacist's Insight in a Changing Landscape

17 Jan . 6 min read.

Manjot Kaur

As a recently qualified pharmacist, I feel my undergraduate course adequately prepared us for a more patient-facing, clinical services-orientated delivery within the community setting. However, feedback from peers at other universities indicated that some felt incompetent to deliver a service based approach as they weren’t equipped for this in their studies.

During my foundation training year at an independent pharmacy, I found I was one of the fortunate individuals who managed to learn to facilitate a service based approach, as this was the way the business earned a huge chunk of its revenue. After qualifying, I became a locum community pharmacist which involved adopting a “checking approach” for most of my shifts rather than what I was used to. This transition highlighted that my peers too were similarly feeling out of their depth with the transition to hand in hand deliver pharmacy first and the community pharmacy referral scheme amongst the usual duties required from a pharmacist.

Feeling left behind?

In essence, as our profession undergoes rapid advancements, with pharmacists graduating as independent prescribers in 2026 and the introduction of new initiatives like the Pharmacy First scheme, why do newly qualified pharmacists feel left behind? It is crucial to openly discuss these concerns, as they impact us collectively, albeit to varying degrees depending on the sector where these newly qualified pharmacists are employed.

New year, no shortage in funding

Pharmacy First serves as a scheme directing the public to community pharmacies' front doors. It’s effective when it is implemented seamlessly equipping pharmacists with the training and protected learning time. As pharmacists we have to learn 23 PGDs inside out for 7 conditions. Alongside obtaining training for NMS’, Flu & Covid jabs, CPCS alongside private travel clinics and this additional service. Many feel overwhelmed and concerned about where they stand in regards to balancing their work-life balance. Are businesses appreciating the benefits we bring by conducting these advanced services without being remunerated appropriately? Are contractors doing the right thing and listening to support us and their business? The service brings an initial £2000 boost and potential £45,000 monthly income from up to 3000 consultations per pharmacy ( ). Simple calculations make it clear that pharmacies claiming that they can’t afford locums negotiating on a service based fee are not aligning with the financial reality. Fair pay and adequate staffing levels are essential to foster a positive relationship with work. Pharmacists are willing to further their professional development for the businesses benefit and the publics within a valued workplace culture.

Prescribing by 2026…

In the current landscape, becoming an independent prescriber (IP) is a fierce topic within our profession. It is a challenging topic for recent graduates, given that those from 2026 will automatically be assigned the notation on the register as an IP. What does this mean for us who graduated right before that? Simply, this means there is a race. Is independent prescribing while adjusting to finding our foot in which sector we want to work in and then building a nichè too much pressure without having a support system in place.

Certain universities offering the IP courses offer a limited number of funded spaces due to the availability of funding from Health Education England. Securing employer-funded spaces is challenging for newcomers in the profession. Consequently, many opt to quickly find their own designated supervisor and self-fund the course to meet evolving professional standards. However, these supervisors often seek reimbursement for their teaching and time, adding to the financial burden on the individual pharmacists pursuing the qualification.

As pharmacy schools expand in England, opening more slots to students, is the focus on saturating the market rather than supporting the existing professionals caring for the public? Plymouth university’s plan to join Bath university in delivering the MPharm course in September 2024 raises questions about the balance in prioritising the current workforce than increase the number of new students ( ). These thought provoking considerations are crucial in establishing our position within the profession. Pharmacy has experienced unprecedented disarray, unlike other fields such as medicine, optics, and dentistry, where regulators exhibit unity. Examples include the solidarity seen in protests for junior doctors' pay and nurses advocating for their working rights, particularly concerning pay and pressures.

How are you feeling?

Pharmacy burnout remains a persistent issue. My fellow colleague Mel Dadgar, discussed on the Pharmacist Defence Association’s platform , highlighting the pressures within community pharmacies. She emphasised addressing the root cause rather than relying solely on resilience training. The proposed solutions addressed staff burnout and underfunding, which continue to be huge issues. Regardless of a person’s career stage, the reality is that we often feel compelled to navigate our professional path independently. After all, if we don't look after ourselves, how can we effectively care for our patients?

Now, we discuss the need for “systemic change” throughout the pharmacy profession. The most recent report from October 2023 named the “Workforce wellbeing roundtable reportdiscusses the increased duties from the number of clinical services and number of dispensed items accelerating and longer working hours as contributory factors to the stress associated with the role. In addition with professional responsibilities such as the lack of protected time for professional development and poor workplace morale; systemic change needs to occur rather than placing it on individuals for a true impact on the pharmacy workforce.

Pharmacist Support excels in aiding trainees and pharmacists amid the dynamic workforce landscape. The charity reported a notable double in the number of counseling sessions being offered in 2022 compared to 2021 ( ) , raising questions about prevention through addressing root causes such as staff shortages and underfunding, as mentioned by Mel earlier.

As we navigate through winter pressures and evolving circumstances, are newly qualified pharmacists adequately equipped, supported, and fairly compensated for their efforts in contributing to community pharmacies growth in their profits? There's a concern about potential stagnation in our development, especially considering that pharmacists from 2026 will be qualified for prescriber roles. Is there sufficient consideration for the advancement of experienced and recently qualified pharmacists?

Shall we try another venture?

On the flip side, newly qualified individuals aspiring to own pharmacies are entering an intriguing landscape this year. The Pharmacy First contract is poised to foster growth for contractors, attracting increased foot traffic and subsequently boosting pharmacy sales. This shift will divert consumers from the local supermarket's medicine aisles during their weekly shop. The reduction in inflation, now at 3.9% after hitting an all-time high of 10.7% last year (source:,long%20term%20average%20of%202.83%25), suggests a potential relief from financial pressures for pharmacy owners in the upcoming months.

The looming prospect of a general election in autumn 2024 hints at potentially beneficial changes for our sector. Notably, pharmacies, particularly 'Boots', are grappling with challenges in the current climate. Rowlands attributes their £200M loss for the financial year ending January 31, 2023, to underfunding. This situation implies potential opportunities for independent owners to acquire these struggling pharmacy stores, reminiscent of what happened with Lloyds pharmacy branches.

A year of change awaits

Exciting opportunities are on the horizon this year, as historical trends in these areas suggest. Newly qualified pharmacists should remain optimistic, focusing on the potential despite encountered setbacks. This serves as a learning opportunity to assess portfolios, strategically plan for rapid changes, and contribute to higher-quality and safer patient care. Encouraging rest breaks, fostering a healthy work environment, and respecting our limits while challenging this in the workplace where appropriate will bring positive change in the system. Regardless of experience, as a workforce, we share a collective responsibility to support the public in looking after their health and our peers in the workplace.

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Manjot Kaur is a clinical pharmacist based in the Midlands, works both in the community and general practice. She qualified in summer 2023 after completing her foundation year training in a service-oriented community setting. This article showcases her passion and commitment to dynamic changes needed in the pharmacy world.

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