Selecting a site for preregistration training can be a bewildering experience, with little information available to help inform this crucial decision. Between 7 August 2019 and 31 October 2019, students are able to rank their preferences from the pharmacy preregistration programmes listed in Oriel, the UK-wide portal for recruitment to postgraduate medical, dental, public health, healthcare science and pharmacy training programmes.
However, with more than 8,100 active training sites registered with the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) and no way for prospective trainees to make direct comparisons between providers, it can be a difficult decision to make.
With this in mind,
Tomorrow’s Pharmacist — an online resource for pharmacy students and newly-qualified pharmacists — asked 19 training providers across England, Scotland and Wales for information regarding the training, pay and conditions offered to their trainees. Twelve preregistration training sites responded, with a table of the full responses available here*.
This article aims to provide information and advice to students on what they should be looking for when choosing a training site.
1. High-quality training
Quality of training can vary significantly between providers and can have a big impact on the future development of a trainee. One indication of quality is the overall pass rate for trainees in the GPhC exam (see Table 1). However, it is important to note that a high pass rate may not necessarily reflect the overall training experience.
Past trainees will be able to share a host of information about the placement and tutor
Ideally, future trainees should find out as much information as possible about their desired placement to determine quality. This may prove difficult given the long list of 8,108 preregistration providers in the Oriel system. However, dedicating time to find out more can help ensure they choose a preregistration placement that is suitable for their training needs. For example, they should try to speak with past students who may have recently completed their preregistration training with that provider. Past trainees will be able to share a host of information about the placement and tutor.
If this is not possible, call or visit specific providers and speak to the tutors. Look for signs that a course is regularly reviewed and updated. Trainees may want to ask: “How do you adapt your course to changes occurring in pharmacy?” or “How have your previous placements affected the training you provide?”. If a provider is delivering the same training each year it may not be adapting to changes in professional practice.
Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust reports asking trainees to complete feedback questionnaires both post-rotation and annually to inform quality improvement of the training programme. The community pharmacy groups — Cohens Chemist, Day Lewis Pharmacy, LloydsPharmacy and Well Pharmacy — also conduct annual reviews of training.
“Feedback on training providers should be a requirement. I have heard too many stories of preregistration trainees struggling and feeling trapped due to fears of it affecting their registration” — Community pharmacy preregistration trainee
|Training provider||Pass rate (%)||Number of candidates|
Source: General Pharmaceutical Council Registration Assessment Performance Data, June 2019
*Providers contacted but who did not respond to our survey
|Barts Health NHS Trust*||100.0||18|
|Day Lewis Plc||73.3||45|
|Guy’s & St. Thomas’ Hospital NHS Foundation Trust||100.0||16|
|H A McParland Ltd*||64.7||17|
|Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust*||100.0||20|
|Kings College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust*||100.0||14|
|Lloyds Pharmacy Ltd||74.2||163|
|NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde*||100.0||13|
|Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust||100.0||15|
|PCT Healthcare Limited||77.8||18|
|St. Georges University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust*||84.6||13|
|The Hub Pharmacy Limited||64.3||14|
|The Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust*||100.0||14|
2. Trainee support
Offering support to trainees will also have a powerful effect on their future pharmacy career. This may include support from a tutor, who is often the only pharmacist a trainee has regular contact with during the preregistration year.
Trainees should feel comfortable raising concerns without fear of reprisal
For example, Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust offers trainees an informal meeting with their tutor prior to the start of the training year, followed by weekly tutor meetings for the first few weeks and every two weeks thereafter. Trainees are also allocated a newly-qualified pharmacist as a mentor for peer support and have access to a dedicated education and training team, from induction to registration.
Future trainees should look for evidence that tutors undertake regular training and performance reviews. Well Pharmacy offers all tutors face-to-face training and two performance reviews per year by the regional development manager. Kamsons Pharmacy offers similar support, while also encouraging trainees to provide anonymous feedback on tutor performance .
Active measures to support the learning needs of trainees from minority ethnic backgrounds is a good indication of workplace culture. While many training providers reported having a diversity and inclusion policy, Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust also offers its trainees access to local diversity networks. It is therefore worthwhile to enquire about what active support is offered for students who place high value in this.
Trainees should feel comfortable raising concerns without fear of reprisal. Many providers offer various channels for trainees to do so through their tutors or training managers, and Boots offers an anonymous whistleblowing hotline.
“Good salary is important but experienced and helpful tutors are far more crucial to help me to pass my exam
” — Community pharmacy preregistration trainee
3. Multi-sector training
Many pharmacists are now working across different specialties and sectors. To maximise employment opportunities, it may be a good idea for students to seek training that covers a wide range of skills and areas.
Although many students may have had the opportunity to experience different sectors during university or by undertaking voluntary placements, many preregistration providers are now also offering multisector training opportunities, which can prove highly rewarding.
Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust provides a wide range of cross-sector placement opportunities across community pharmacy, clinical commissioning groups and GP practices. Kamsons Pharmacy offers hospital and general practice options to its trainees, while Paydens offers trainees both hospital and industry placements.
Students placed within a single-sector preregistration site should ask if short (e.g. two-week) placements in a different sector are possible. However, if not, remember it is still possible to transfer between sectors after registering as a pharmacist.
“We had a day in a CCG organised [for us], we also got a day where we shadowed a GP pharmacist” — Hospital pharmacy preregistration trainee
4. Study leave
Not all providers offer a study leave allowance and/or protected study/learning time (the number of hours allocated to study at work that form part of contracted working hours).
This can mean that any time off for personal study will have to be taken from the trainee’s annual leave allowance. Also, while some organisations may say they provide protected learning time, the reality can be somewhat different. Providing protected learning time in a busy workplace can be difficult, both logistically and practically (owing to limited space), and trainees need to be aware that this is not always an entitlement during busy times or if patient care is compromised.
It is well worth enquiring about protected learning time and whether it is necessary to be in the workplace for this.
Source: The Pharmaceutical Journal / KS
While some providers do not offer study leave, they may allocate time for trainees to attend formal preregistration training or networking days organised by the training provider themselves, which trainees should not have to use their annual leave to attend.
Boots and Superdrug offer up to two days per month to attend preregistration training days. Superdrug additionally offers its trainees four week-long residential sessions during the year. Boots allows for up to two days a month for preregistration training days and provides trainees with four hours of protected study/learning time within the workplace each week. Alternatively, LloydsPharmacy offers trainees several networking opportunities with the chance to attend a two-day preregistration trainee conference, a careers evening and a monthly development day.
Some providers may organise training days on weekends, which means trainees may end up working six-day weeks.
“I was told I would receive four hours of study time per week; this rarely happened because my branch was so busy” — Community pharmacy preregistration trainee
5. Good working benefits
Job benefits should not be looked at in isolation but considered alongside potential career opportunities and experiences offered by a training site. However, everyone’s circumstances differ and pay and benefits during training may therefore be more important to some trainees.
For hospital trainees, annual pay is set by the Agenda for Change pay band five at £24,214, but the NHS high-cost area allowance can bring a hospital trainee’s total pay up depending on location. Annual salaries for community and hospital pharmacist trainees in Scotland are determined by NHS Education for Scotland and are reviewed each year. There is more variation in community pharmacy across the UK, where annual salaries between training providers can range from £18,000 at Kamsons Pharmacy up to £24,000 in Boots and Day Lewis, depending on location (figures accurate at time of writing).
While the hospital training providers who responded to our survey pay their trainees a higher salary, they do not offer as many employee benefits as community counterparts. Boots offers a wide range of benefits, including medical insurance, 50% off Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) membership fees and access to a bonus scheme. Although Well Pharmacy only offers its medical insurance scheme to trainees post qualification and does not pay for RPS membership, it does offer inclusion in the pension scheme and company-specific benefits.
“I was paid the least of any other preregistration organisation that I encountered in discussion with others, but the training programme was outstanding” — Community pharmacy preregistration trainee
6. Future employment opportunities
For most students, the choice of training provider will also be determined by future permanent employment opportunities within the company. For many students this is an important factor and they should ask providers about retention rates and the support they would receive post registration if they were employed permanently.
The availability of roles within a company can vary. Boots, for example, states that for the 2018 training year, more than 85% of students were offered a newly qualified pharmacist position, and at Paydens, 90% of students who apply for a position are retained.
As an alternative to full-time employment, some providers may encourage their newly qualified pharmacists to work in locum or bank positions. These opportunities can help provide them with a financial grounding when they qualify and provide them with vital experience before applying for a permanent role.
- If you are from a training provider not included in this review but wish to be considered for 2020, please contact Angela Kam, careers editor and editor of Tomorrow’s Pharmacist, at: email@example.com
Thank you to Aamer Safdar, principal pharmacist lead for education and development at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, and Aamir Shaikh, professional development pharmacist at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, for sharing their insight during the creation of this article.
We want to thank Boots, Cohens Chemist, Day Lewis PLC, Guy’s & St. Thomas’ Hospital Trust, Kamsons Pharmacy, Lloyds Pharmacy Ltd, Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, Paydens, PCT Healthcare Limited, Superdrug, The Hub Pharmacy Limited and Well Pharmacy for responding to our survey.
- *This article was updated on 28 August 2019 based on information provided by Well. It was not possible to update this information in the attached document, ‘Preregistration training site responses August 2019’.