Pharmaceutical Group of the European Union

Members Area

Pharmacy Workforce

Pharmacists represent the third largest health professional group globally after nurses and physicians. Until very recent there has been a lack of data and nominated research in relation to pharmacy, which has lead to a degree of oversight of pharmacy in health workforce planning.

The 2006 FIP Global Pharmacy Workforce and Migration Report1 and most recent 2009 FIP Global Pharmacy Workforce Report2 has, however, provided much needed data and analysis of the issues.

The shortage of health professionals is of varying severity depending on particular health profession and country of origin. However, due to the increasing overlap of professional roles, and modern health systems that require health professionals to work in a team, so called ‘skill mix’, when creating workforce forecasting models and developing workforce plans national authorities and well as scientists need to consider all health professionals.

The shortage of pharmacy workforce and the impact on pharmacy services depends largely on the role of pharmacists in the relevant country. In many European countries pharmacists are developing more patient-centered roles and the number of primary care services available via community pharmacies is expanding. Furthermore such issues as increasing volume of prescriptions; overall ageing of European population; rising polypharmacy; innovations in chronic disease management; advancement of technology and personalized medicine; greater administrative requirements for handling third-party payments; increasing feminization of pharmacy workforce, when women are more likely to work full-time or take career breaks; and the global economical climate all point to an increasing need to ensure an adequate pharmacy workforce.

The greater part of healthcare budgets is allocated to reimbursement of medicines; consequently those resources will be at risk of waste and misuse if not managed by adequately trained and motivated health professionals.

EU Joint Action on Health Workforce Planning

According to an estimate, Europe expects a shortage of 1.000.000 health workers by 2020 (190.000 of those pharmacists and physiotherapists).  Healthcare workforce planning is crucial as countries that are self-sufficient today could face challenge due to mobility of their workforce.There is a great variety of healthcare workforce planning methods across member states. Sharing and exchanging practices has a great potential to support member state capacity and respond to challenges of tomorrow. EU Joint Action on Health Workforce Planning is a collaboration between Member States, European Commission and stakeholders mainly representing different healthcare professional groups. The general objective of this action is to create a platform for collaboration and exchange between Member States to prepare the future of the healthcare workforce.


The PGEU participated in a WP6 teleconference on the drafting of ‘user guidelines on how to use qualitative methodologies to estimate future health workforce needs’, which is now in its second draft, the final version being due in June 2014.

The PGEU has been approached by one of the UK Horizon Scanning Team to be interviewed for a report on the future skills and competences needed in the health workforce over the next 20 years. The interviews will be with key experts from a range of professional backgrounds to develop a greater understanding of the driving forces which may affect skills and competencies in the future.

From the 7th – 9th of May 2014, the PGEU attended the Joint Action on EU Health Workforce and Planning meeting in Florence where the WP5 (Pilot Study) plans for Portugal and Italy were discussed. A steering committee (of which the PGEU belongs) also took place in Florence where stakeholders were encouraged to contribute to the development of the pilot study.

Additionally, feedback from stakeholders was sought on the suitability of the recently prepared ‘matrices’ for Belgium, Denmark, England, Finland, The Netherlands and Spain for the design of a handbook to aid the pilot studies and future workforce planning. These matrices are the country specific guidelines from the national experts in workforce development and planning and it is anticipated that these documents will be used to produce a handbook for use both in the upcoming pilot studies in Italy and Portugal, and also for other Member States to utilise.