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Impact case study - Improving workforce planning in pharmacy

Pharmacists play an essential role in delivering healthcare. But falling numbers of qualified staff due to changing work patterns and a reluctance to work overtime, has put delivering this crucial aspect of healthcare at risk. 

To examine whether the sector was equipped for the future, the Department of Health commissioned King’s College London to develop a model that identified future supply and demand of trained pharmacists. 

By talking to working pharmacists, the research team identified the factors that led to a shortage of qualified staff. These findings led to the opening of eight new pharmacy schools and a significant change in UK policy.

A shortage of pharmacists 

King’s was commissioned by the Department of Health through the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain (RPSGB) to develop a new planning model that built upon long-term research examining workforce patterns.

The challenge for the team at King’s involved designing a model that effectively identified future supply and demand for pharmacists. 

The team included:

  • Professor David Guest – Director of Research  
  • Dr Pat Oakley – Research Fellow
  • Dr Alexandra Budjanovcanin – Research Assistant
  • Dr Ricardo Rodrigues - PhD

The research combined two areas of King’s expertise – career theory and workforce planning. 


Developing an effective model

The research had two main aims:

  • To identify the best methods available in the research literature and then create the planning model
  • To develop theory and empirical research in the areas of career, orientation, career boundaries and career regret.

Factors affecting supply

The research revealed an increasing shortage of pharmacists for years to come. This suggested an urgent need to increase the supply through the education system. 

King’s also identified the areas that affect supply of labour. These included part time work, intention to reduce hours and desire for a career break. All these fresh findings informed the team’s innovative planning model. 

  • 38% of qualified staff worked part-time
  • 45% expected to reduce their hours in the next five years

Follow up reviews showed the model was robust and confirmed careful planning in this area of healthcare is effective.

King’s research provided the Department of Health with a developed and tested workforce model. The team also explained how it could be generalised to other areas of the health workforce.

The value of workforce planning

As a result of research findings:

  • King’s has transformed thinking at the Department of Health and the RPSBG
  • The model has influenced the perceived value of workforce planning
  • Eight new Schools of Pharmacy were founded to help generate the sufficient numbers needed
  • Changes were made to the regulations on the hours that community pharmacies could be open
  • There was a boost in membership for the RPSBG due to the increase in pharmacists

Real impact came from making people think about workforce at all. Being able to show what happens if participation rates go up or attrition in universities goes up, for example, was incredibly powerful.

Head of Education and Training, of the Department of Health

Overall, King’s have helped tackle the shortage of pharmacists identified in their research. And as a result, the expanding demands for pharmacy services will be met, helping promote and protect the health of the general public. 

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