New immigration rules will make it easier for business owners and contractors to recruit pharmacy staff from abroad after the Covid pandemic.

In an announcement made last week (4 March), the Home Office said pharmacists, among several other health and social care roles, had been added to the shortage occupation list (SOL).

This means it will now be easier for pharmacists, along with any other professional listed, to obtain a UK working visa.

Sandra Gidley, president of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) welcomed the Government’s move to add pharmacists to the list and said it recognised the growing need for pharmacists’ expertise.

‘Covid-19 has shown just how vital a role pharmacists play in supporting patient care. It’s important that our health service has the right workforce and this list recognises that there is a growing demand for pharmacists’ expertise, particularly in new roles across primary care.

‘We must all work to ensure that the UK remains an attractive place for the world’s best talent to come and work in.

‘There is a real need to invest in clinically focussed education and training to ensure a strong pipeline of recruitment that will help to grow our workforce,’ she said.

This comes almost a year after a review, published by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), recommended that pharmacists be added to the list amid shortage concerns.

Its review of the shortage occupation list 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’.

Announcing the updated list, Kevin Foster, minister for future borders and immigration said: ‘Every year we welcome healthcare workers from across the world to our United Kingdom, with many having played a key role on the frontline of the NHS during the recent pandemic.

‘This latest set of changes, combined with our Health and Care Visa, will ensure they can easily get the immigration status they deserve.’

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.

As part of the points-based immigration system, people applying to work in the UK must have 70 points to be eligible for a work visa.

Pharmacists, along with other professions listed on the SOL, will automatically gain 20 points.

The 50 remaining points are earned by having an ‘acceptable standard of English’, an offer from a licensed sponsor and the required skill level, the Home Office outlined in their announcement.