I was disappointed to learn that Health Education England (HEE) and Higher Education Funding Council of England will no longer be pursuing the important issue of student numbers; a decision which has surely frustrated students and those who support the need for numbers to be managed.
Having read the summary of consultation responses
, it is clear that the minister for universities, science and cities, Greg Clark, has gone against the advice of the vast majority of respondents, which included national organisations, individual pharmacists and students. The summary of responses makes clear that restricting recruitment of students on to the MPharm course is more desirable than creating a split degree or the influence of a free market. This desirability was not borne from selfish reasons and managing student intake was seen as a viable way to increase the quality of education, pharmacists, and patient care. It could also allow for a slight oversupply of pharmacists that could fulfil the roles set out in the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s (RPS) ‘Now or never’ report.
I welcome the announcement that HEE will now focus on the recommendations from Modernising Pharmacy Careers regarding pharmacist education and training and I hope it does so with some pace. By design, the proposed five-year MPharm programme will require student numbers to be controlled on intake to match the training places available. However, with NHS finances as tight as they are, I fear that implementation of a five-year integrated MPharm could be compromised.
There is currently no money in the NHS to fund additional pre-registration training places and we are likely to see increasing numbers of students unable to obtain training positions, with competition cascading year on year. Mr Clark has requested that universities tell students they are not guaranteed pre-registration training, which will surely put our dedicated academic workforce in a difficult position. I am also concerned that the present situation could make the MPharm unattractive and potentially destabilise the sector.
There are so many reasons why we need to continue working on this issue and I would call on all pharmacists to support the RPS in meeting with government ministers to pursue this matter
 HEFCE (2014). Ensuring a sustainable supply of pharmacy graduates, Analysis of first-stage consultation. Available at: http://www.hefce.ac.uk/media/hefce/content/pubs/2014/201422/HEFCE2014_22.pdf
 RPS (2014) Future supply of pharmacy graduates, RPS comments. Available at: http://www.rpharms.com/what-s-happening-/news_show.asp?id=2343