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Government ‘ignoring pharmacist exodus’ says Labour MP

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Government ‘ignoring pharmacist exodus’ says Labour MP

The Government is shoring up problems by ignoring the “exodus of pharmacists to other industries,” Labour MP Taiwo Owatemi has claimed.

Ms Owatemi, a former hospital pharmacist and current chair of the All Party Pharmacy Group (APPG), was speaking in a Commons debate yesterday (November 22) on staffing levels in the NHS.

She said: “I know first-hand how important pharmacists are to the provision of healthcare across the country, yet the Government continues to fail those key workers.

“A recent study published by the Pharmacists’ Defence Association revealed that almost a quarter of pharmacists want to leave their current sector and move to another part of pharmacy, and of those almost a third are considering leaving pharmacy altogether. 

“As with most healthcare professionals, low and stagnating pay and working conditions are the main reason for seeking a change. 

“The longer the Government ignores the exodus of pharmacists to other industries, the more money it will cost to recruit and train new staff."

Ms Owatemi, who represents the Coventry North West constituency, added that community pharmacists are “willing and eager” to take on more work and take pressure off GP surgeries, but the Government must first “take the necessary steps” or else waiting times and patient dissatisfaction will continue to worsen.

She accused the Government of ‘completely ignoring’ recommendations from the health select committee around utilising the pharmacy workforce, saying: “Like everyone else, pharmacists need to know that there are chances for growth and the acquisition of new skills in different areas.

“Until the Government tackles the issues of low pay, poor working conditions and a lack of opportunities for career progression, I fear that we will see a weaker and weaker pharmacy sector, which none of us can afford.” 

The debate heard from health minister Will Quince, who said he was “acutely aware” that the health workforce is “under sustained pressure,” adding: “It is not just about pay; it is about many other issues.”

He said that while he could not comment on pharmacies in yesterday’s debate it is a “hugely important issue” and offered to discuss it with Ms Owatemi.

He also promised to speak to DUP MP Paul Girvan, who complained that doctors and nurses in his constituency “decide they want to be locums and get three times the shift rate”.

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