Overseas pharmacists should be granted easier access to work in the UK after the stricter immigration rules come into force when the Brexit transition period ends in December, the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) has said.
The committee’s recommendation comes after its review of the shortage occupation list (SOL) found there was a ‘national shortage in this occupation due to a decline in the number of pharmacy graduates and increasing demand for their services,’ which has led to ‘recruitment difficulties’.
According to stakeholders interviewed by the committee, recruiting non-UK pharmacists has been ‘very effective’ in alleviating shortages of domestic workers to meet the demand.
The advisory group had previously decided not to put pharmacists on the list, but said that in light of new evidence brought about by further shortages and the Covid-19 pandemic, it had decided to recommend that pharmacists be added to the SOL.
The committee said in its report: ‘We acknowledge that pharmacists have played an important role in addressing the ongoing challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic.
‘Furthermore, this occupation is considered a high-risk occupation in terms of its exposure to disease and proximity to others which makes it particularly vulnerable to the issues Covid-19 poses.’
It added: One of the criteria the MAC uses for inclusion on the SOL focuses on the public value of the occupation. For these reasons, we recommend that pharmacists should be added to the SOL at this time.
The SOL works by lowering the visa requirements migrants need to apply for a job after the Brexit transition period, which means employers can potentially fill roles faster.
The committee also recommended that a number of other healthcare roles be added to the list, including senior care home and nursing staff, physiotherapists and health service managers.