Emerging Risks to the Future Pharmacy Workforce

We are aware through our work and engagement with stakeholders of increasing concerns about the availability of the pharmacist workforce in patient-facing roles in Ireland. Although the PSI is not involved in the recruitment of pharmacists, as the pharmacy regulator we have made a strategic commitment to examining the issue of the continued availability of a professional workforce so that pharmacy may continue to meet patient needs and play a full role in the development of an integrated healthcare system, with the expectation of increased demands on the health service and healthcare provision by pharmacists and pharmacies. Our Corporate Strategy 2021-2024 and our Service Plan for 2022 include our commitment to this project.

Our work aims to assess emerging risks to the continued availability of a professional pharmacy workforce within community and hospital pharmacy in Ireland. The project is taking a medium to long-term view of this matter and will run across 2022-2023.

This is a complex issue with many contributing factors and multiple stakeholders. Workforce challenges are being experienced across health systems in Ireland and abroad. However, robust pharmacy workforce data for Ireland is needed to support decisions and inform recommendations that can be proposed to address Ireland’s needs for the pharmacist workforce in the future, as Ireland’s healthcare system evolves.

To assist and support us in the delivery of this important strategic project we will: 

  • Commission external support with expertise in workforce planning 
  • Consult with a range of stakeholders, including members of the profession, to help inform our work on the project 
  • Present recommended actions to the PSI Council for its consideration 

Consultation and engagement during this project

The issues related to this project have relevance to a range of people and organisations. This project is being supported by a Working Group comprising of stakeholders with an interest in, and knowledge of, the pharmacy sector. The following are represented on the Working Group:

  • Medicines, Controlled Drugs & Pharmacy Legislation Unit, Department of Health
  • Strategic Workforce Planning, Department of Health
  • Strategic Workforce Planning and Intelligence, HSE National HR
  • Corporate Pharmaceutical Unit, HSE Primary Care Reimbursement Service 
  • National Medication Safety Programme, HSE National Quality & Patient Safety Directorate 
  • Acute Hospitals Drugs Management Programme, HSE Acute Operations 
  • Irish Pharmacy Union 
  • Hospital Pharmacists Association of Ireland
  • Irish Institute of Pharmacy 
  • Schools of Pharmacy nominee
  • Affiliation for Pharmacy Practice Experiential Learning (APPEL) 
  • Pharmacists in Industry, Education, and Regulatory (PIER) 
  • A practising pharmacist

We held focus groups in January 2023 with practising pharmacists from a variety of roles, and pharmacy students, who participated following an expression of interest process. We appreciate all those who took part in these.

From 23 November to 18 December 2022 we ran a significant pharmacist workforce survey, which was open to all PSI-registered pharmacists and final year pharmacy students. This is the first workforce survey of this kind for pharmacy in Ireland. The survey responses will assist us in having up-to-date information to: 

  • Provide insights into questions such as how and where pharmacists are working, and their future career plans 
  • Examine pharmacists’ perceptions of the sector 
  • Identify barriers to choosing to work in patient-facing roles (community and hospital pharmacy). 

The design of this survey was undertaken by the PSI together with the appointed project consultants, Grant Thornton, and informed by engagement with external stakeholders, research, and with reference to other national and international health professional workforce surveys. We were very encouraged by the high response rate and the survey data will be analysed, shared and used to inform our ongoing work. We plan to repeat the survey annually to track workforce trends. 

Project Update

On 25 September 2023, the Pharmacy Workforce Intelligent Report was launched at the Department of Health. This report, the first of its kind for pharmacy in Ireland, contains a series of recommendations and actions for the PSI and other stakeholders to progress to address pharmacy workforce concerns. An implementation and oversight group will be established to monitor the progress of these recommendations.

The workforce survey is being repeated annually and will build on the information we gathered during the previous year’s survey. This will allow us, and the implementation and oversight group, to monitor the effect of the recommendations and actions included in the Pharmacy Workforce Intelligence Report as these are implemented over the coming months and years.

This year, the survey will be open from 22 November until 21 December 2023 and all registered pharmacists and pharmacy students in their last year of study are encouraged to respond.

If you have questions about this ongoing work, please contact us at info@psi.ie.

This webpage was updated on 22 November 2023.