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Saturday, 18 August, 2001, 22:51 GMT 23:51 UK
Patients hit by chemist shortages
Lack of staff is forcing some pharmacies to close
Lack of staff is forcing some pharmacies to close
Patients could find their chemists closed as the pharmacy industry battles against staff shortages and extra demands.

Industry experts say pharmacists are facing increased opening hours and new responsibilities in advising patients and GP surgeries.

In addition, a change to pharmacists' training has meant this year, around 60% fewer graduates are ready to register as trainee pharmacists.

Usually 1,000 register for a postgraduate training. This year, 400 have done so.

The demands are leading to some pharmacies closing on certain days because they do not have enough staff.

Pressure

About six million people visit the UK's 12,800 pharmacies each day, with a million seeking advice or obtaining medicines.

An article in trade journal Chemist and Druggist says many pharmacists are under pressure to work six-days a week without a break because there is no-one to cover leave.

By law, a pharmacist has to be present when medicines are being sold and dispensed.

News editor Charles Gladwin told BBC News Online chains of chemists are likely to be worst hit by the shortage because they find it difficult to cover staff shortages.

Independent pharmacists will struggle on, because they too are facing problems getting cover for holidays and illness is becoming increasingly difficult.

'Expansion'

Mr Gladwin said: "It is unfortunate that this manpower crisis has come at time when pharmacists want to start expanding the professional services they offer."

The trainee shortage should be less of a problem in coming years, as the transition from a three to a four year undergraduate course falls into place.

But Mr Gladwin said if demands on community pharmacists increased, the extra staff would not be enough.

A spokesman for the Royal Pharmaceutical Society said: "We recognise that there are fewer pharmacists registering this year. The decision for the pharmacy degree course to extend from a three-year to a four-year course was announced by the Society in 1997.

"There are now more pharmacy students in training than ever before and the extended degree course is providing them with the skills necessary to practice in the new developing healthcare environment."

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