Health Minister Robin Swann has announced the publication of his Department’s Pharmacy Workforce Review.

Statement on HMS Caroline
Statement on HMS Caroline

The Review contains an analysis of the current pharmacy workforce in Northern Ireland and recommendations to inform the development of the pharmacy workforce over the next ten years.

Minister Swann said: “Pharmacists and their teams play an essential role in delivering health services to the people of Northern Ireland. This has been particularly evident in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic with pharmacy teams rising to the challenges posed by the emergency to adapt and maintain their services.

“With our aging population, our Health Service needs to care for increasing numbers of people with complex medical needs taking multiple medicines. Pharmacists with their unique set of skills and knowledge really are the medicines experts that our Health Service needs to help ensure that our people get the best possible outcomes from their medicines.

“Implementing the recommendations contained in the review will ensure that the pharmacy workforce has the necessary capability and capacity to fully support the transformation of our Health Service in the coming years.”

The recommendations contained within the Review are consistent with wider proposals for the UK-wide reform of the initial education and training of pharmacists previously announced by the UK pharmacy regulators, including the Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland, in July 2020.

An early priority action for the Department, in response to the Review’s recommendations, is to take immediate steps to attract, recruit and retain more pharmacists in community, hospital and general practice roles within Northern Ireland.

Minister Swann added: “While some of the recommendations in the report will take time to implement fully, I am delighted to welcome today’s launch of ‘Pharmacy Futures NI’.

“This campaign will showcase the very best of our pharmacy profession, and demonstrate to current and future pharmacists from near and far why Northern Ireland is the best place to take the next step on their journey towards a rewarding career.”

Cathy Harrison, Chief Pharmaceutical Officer at the Department of Health added: “Our review has considered the full scope of pharmacy practice in HSC settings, including community pharmacy, general practice and hospitals. The recommendations contained within the report are ambitious and transformational for the pharmacy profession in Northern Ireland. Pharmacy teams are a critical part of the multi-disciplinary medicines optimisation workforce required to ensure that our people get the most from the medicines that they use every day, and are in high demand as a result.”

“Planned reforms of the initial education and training of pharmacists in the UK will see pharmacists taking on increasingly clinical roles across all sectors. Optimising the skill mix of the pharmacy workforce is an essential part of realising the full potential of these wider developments. A central theme of the Review is developing the role of pharmacy technicians within the workforce in tandem with progressing the regulation and registration of pharmacy technicians as registered professionals in their own right.”