The Workforce Intelligence Report, commissioned by the PSI and developed by Grant Thornton, is the first report of its kind for pharmacy in Ireland. The report provides crucial baseline data specific to this segment of the healthcare workforce. It also examines the current challenges and risks associated with the recruitment and retention of pharmacists in both community and hospital settings. While there has been a consistent year on year increase in the number of pharmacists registered, currently standing at over 7,200, the report warns of emerging risks to the continued supply of pharmacists and their retention within vital patient-facing roles.
The Report responds to emerging global and national trends in pharmacy and healthcare workforce challenges and was commissioned in the absence of any previous strategic workforce planning initiatives for pharmacy in Ireland. The primary objective of the report is to ensure there is a sustainable supply of pharmacists in patient-facing roles, so that pharmacy can continue to contribute to the development of the future integrated healthcare system.
The report highlights several key issues expressed by pharmacists and pharmacy students, and states that a multi-agency stakeholder response is required to address the complex issue of workforce planning. The report includes evidence from a number of sources, including a workforce survey measuring the sentiment of over 1,200 pharmacists. This was conducted in November 2022, and provides a snapshot of pharmacists’ outlook at that time. There were also a series of focus groups conducted with a cross-section of pharmacists from different roles, and an evidence review to establish international best practice and experience in relation to strategic workforce planning.
The report identified areas of focus for future workforce planning for pharmacy that include:
The primary objective of the report is to ensure there is a sustainable supply of pharmacists in patient-facing roles, so that pharmacy can continue to contribute to the development of the future integrated healthcare system.
The Workforce Intelligence Report provides six key recommendations, each underpinned by set of actionable steps, considered necessary for a sustainable future pharmacy workforce. Each recommendation heading and some of the actions included under each are presented here:
The recommendations, informed by data and evidence-based research, aim to address the complex issue of workforce planning for pharmacists and will play a pivotal role in informing national strategic workforce planning initiatives led by the Department of Health.
The lack of a structured strategy to identify and accommodate the appropriate number of pharmacists that need to be trained in Ireland increases the likelihood of future workforce capacity issues and results in a reliance on internationally trained pharmacists to meet the requirements of the sector. Steps are already underway to address this, with the announcement late last year by the Higher Education Authority, supported by the Department of Further and Higher Education, Innovation and Science, and in partnership with the Department of Health, to provide more pharmacy training places nationally.
The PSI also welcomes the sentiments and views expressed by final-year pharmacy students regarding patient-facing roles and has noted that it will work with the Schools of Pharmacy to continue to monitor and report the perspectives of pharmacy students over time to enable their concerns to be understood and addressed.
One of the key actions required to inform a national strategy for pharmacy workforce planning is a commitment from the PSI to gather robust data and insights yearly to feed into national workforce planning initiatives. The PSI is committed to delivering on this action to build on the data gathered as part of this project and intends to issue another workforce survey later this year.
PSI Registrar and Chief Officer, Joanne Kissane, describes the report as a “milestone” for pharmacy workforce planning in Ireland. Ms Kissane notes that the challenges facing pharmacy are not unique to Ireland and are influenced by global trends. Ms Kissane stresses the importance of building upon the report’s findings and collaborating with the Department of Health and other stakeholders to ensure the sustainability of the pharmacy workforce.
The release of the Workforce Intelligence Report signifies a critical step in addressing the pressing issues facing pharmacists in patient-facing roles. The commitment of all stakeholders to implement these recommendations will not only ensure the availability of a skilled and dedicated pharmacy workforce but will also enhance patient care and strengthen the healthcare system in Ireland.
The Regulator highlights that it is an opportune time for pharmacy in Ireland and there is a strong commitment from all stakeholders involved to ensure the practice of pharmacy in Ireland is optimised to enable pharmacists to use their full range of skills to further benefit patients.
The report, which has been approved by the PSI Council, was officially launched by the Secretary General of the Department of Health, Robert Watt, on 25 September, and is available on the PSI website, psi.ie. The PSI also shared outputs from the report with pharmacists at regional roadshow events throughout October.
The Pharmacy Regulator