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NHSScotland pharmacy workforce survey (managed sector)

NES collects employment information on the NHS pharmacy workforce, sometimes referred to as the Managed Sector to differentiate it from other sectors such as community pharmacy. 


The managed sector pharmacy workforce are directly employed by NHSScotland and include staff who work within pharmacy services at a hospital, NHS Board, and the Pharmaceutical Special Service. The survey collects aggregated information from NHS Boards on employment, vacancies, locums, posts currently at risk, and posts disestablished. 

  • Staff are included in this survey if they are employed by NHSScotland on a permanent contract. 
  • A vacancy is defined as a post which has been cleared for advert after being through the redeployment process (internal or external advert) and remains a vacancy until an individual starts in the post. 
  • A locum is a member of staff employed on a contractual basis through an agency, rather than having a permanent salaried position. 
  • Posts disestablished over the last year are posts are posts which are no longer were funded as part of the core establishment. 
  • Posts currently at risk are posts which are being considered removed from the core establishment. 

Pharmacy leads at each NHS Board are asked to complete the excel-based survey for the workforce position at 31 September each year.  

What data are published 

After receiving these data, NES processes and applies quality assurance checks before reporting these data in a dashboard in the December release of the NHSScotland Workforce official statistics publication. The key information released in this publication are: 

  • The number of staff employed by NHS board, division, discipline, and agenda for change band. 
  • The number of vacant posts and vacancy rate by NHS board, division, discipline,, and agenda for change band. 
  • The number of locum and agency staff, posts currently at risk, and posts disestablished by NHS board, division, discipline, and agenda for change band. 

The Glossary provides definitions. 

Data are available annually at 30 September census from 2011. 


The managed sector survey collects information on all permanent staff who are directly employed by NHSScotland for the following disciplines: 

  • Pharmacists including those on the provisional register. 
  • Pharmacy technicians and pre-registration trainee pharmacy technicians (both year 1 and year 2). 
  • Pharmacy support workers. 
  • Admin and clerical staff including roles in Business / Logistics / IT Managers, Office Managers, and Data Analysts. 
  • Non-AfC posts include roles who are not on Agenda for Change, e.g. Director's of Pharmacy. 
  • Other staff role which captures anyone who is not able to fit under the above roles.  

Pharmacy porters are not included even if they are funded through the pharmacy budget. 

Staff on secondments are reported under their NHS Board of employment, rather than board of placement. 

Employment data are collected by division: NHS Acute Hospital, NHS Mental Health and Community Hospitals, NHS Board Central Staff, and NHS Board Primary Care Staff. Territorial boards record the level of staffing for each service within their Board, whereas staff at Special Health Boards are recorded under central staff service. 

The above conditions apply to the data captured for vacant posts, locums, posts currently at risk and posts disestablished over the last year. 

For vacancies, additional conditions are applied: 

  • if a post is filled by a locum/agency staff, it is still vacant; 
  • if a member of staff on leave, and it is filled by a permanently employed member of staff, then it is not vacant; and 
  • if a post is 'empty' at the census date, but it has been recruited into it then it is recorded as vacant until the new recruit starts. 

Further information 

Employment information for the managed pharmacy workforce are also available in SWISS. They are reported quarterly in the NHSScotland Workforce official statistics publication under the Pharmacy sub job family (Other Therapeutic Services staff group). However, detail of the discipline (e.g pharmacist, pharmacy support worker etc) is only available in the annual survey, not SWISS. 

In 2019 the NHSScotland Pharmaceutical Specials Service launched at Ninewells Hospital in NHS Tayside. The service supports NHSScotland by manufacturing medicines when available licensed medicines do not meet the specific needs of patients. It amalgamated the previous NHSScotland manufacturing units based at Ninewells and the Western Infirmary Glasgow. The service also provides support to Research & Development in the NHS and Scottish Universities by providing medicines for use in clinical trials.  

In the managed sector survey, these staff are recorded under the Specials service and Central sector of practice from 31 September 2019. They are not included in NHS Tayside or North region figures, but are included in NHSScotland total. In SWISS, because the staff in the Specials service are paid by NHS Tayside, they are recorded in NHS Tayside figures. 

Pharmacists and Pharmacy technicians are registered with the General Pharmaceutical Council. 

Quality assurance and limitations

Quality assurance 

A number of steps are in place to ensure that these data are reported accurately. 

  1. Ahead of this survey being supplied to Boards, the Data Group work with the NES Pharmacy directorate to ensure the data being collected and the guidance for completion are accurate and relevant. The Pharmacy directorate are in touch with key stakeholders within this service in NHSScotland.
  2. An excel survey is provided to NHS Boards in the middle of September each year to complete for their pharmacy workforce at 31 September. The survey is completed by people working in the service and signed off by the director of pharmacy at each Board. Boards are asked to supply the data by end of October. 
  3. Once these data have been returned to NES, each survey is checked for any completion errors or missing information and compared with previous figures for consistency. When required, NES clarify any potential issues with data providers.
  4. These data are then processed to combine all extracts together and updated in reporting software, PowerBI. The report is then checked to ensure the values are shown accurately and any additional points of clarity are noted in notes pages or interactive tooltips.
  5. These data are part of the two-week early release quality assurance process where the outputs are made available to the directors of pharmacy to confirm as accurate. Communication with NHS Boards over this period allows us to confirm or update any of these data ahead of release to the public. 

The above quality assurance processes results in accurate information being released as part of the NHSScotland Workforce official statistics publication. Therefore, it is unlikely that any significant issues with the data quality would arise after publication. If we are made of any major data inaccuracies we will update any outputs under a revision.  


This collection allows NES to report the number of staff employed at a census date. This will be different from the number of staff working at any given time (for example, due to rostering or absences). 

It is not possible to use the main administrative system of employment data (SWISS) since the discipline indicators for e.g., pharmacist, pharmacy support worker, etc., are not sufficiently detailed. The use of administrative data would help reduce the burden on survey respondents by supplementing or replacing survey items, and is something that NES is investigating.

It is not possible to track the progression of staff or undertake turnover analysis using the survey since aggregated data are collected.