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'Really difficult' to recruit pharmacists says Rowlands MD


'Really difficult' to recruit pharmacists says Rowlands MD

It is “really difficult” to recruit new pharmacists at present, Rowlands Pharmacy managing director Nigel Swift has said.

In an interview recorded for Pharmacy Magazine’s In Conversation With podcast series, Mr Swift – who joined Phoenix last year as assistant CEO and Rowlands MD – said the community pharmacy sector as a whole is “competing with primary and secondary care” for personnel such as pharmacists and support staff.

He said that while Rowlands Pharmacy’s vacancies are “not quite” as high as the 11.5 per cent full time equivalent workforce vacancy rate reported in Health Education England’s recent survey, “we’ve definitely got challenges in parts of the country”.

“Our biggest focus is on retaining the pharmacists we’ve got,” he said, explaining that the company is trying to offer more career development opportunities and support work-life balance, in part by offering flexible working.

He said that after “two years of Covid” many pharmacists are “rethinking” their careers and exploring portfolio work involving other sectors, adding: “It’s a given that they want fair remuneration”. 

“I can’t see any major changes in the near future where all of a sudden there’s going to be lots of pharmacists available” he went on to say, suggesting the problem will require “working across the different care sectors to see if we can balance the workforce”. 

Asked what Rowlands is doing to mitigate the impact of Government funding cuts in England, Mr Swift said the growth in NHS and private services offered “huge opportunities,” citing the Covid vaccination programme as a powerful example.

He said that a recently launched ear wax removal service has proven highly popular with patients, with many GP surgeries having stopped the service. 

“Where we’ve launched it, we’re actually booked up for three months,” he said, adding that other areas of opportunity for the company include health and wellbeing products and P medicines, such as pain management drugs.

Asked about the future of the Rowlands estate, Mr Swift said that after divesting a number of stores and reducing opening times and working hours in many of its remaining pharmacies in recent years, the company continues to “look at every pharmacy individually and at the future of that pharmacy”. 

He said he sees Rowlands concentrating more on an “omnichannel” offering involving more digital dispensing and freeing up time for brick and mortar pharmacies to focus on services.

Mr Swift also said that if laws around hub and spoke are changed the company’s dispensing technology will be made available to all Numark members.

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