The decision by Greg Clark, the minister for universities, science and cities, not to introduce controls on the number of pharmacy students is pretty much what many of us expected. Since extra government funding for pre-registration places will not be made available, it is no skin off his nose if large numbers graduate. If it is not costing the NHS a penny, it seems pointless lobbying our local MP, as Gino Martini suggested (
The Pharmaceutical Journal 2014;293:490). But even if money were made available, to ensure every student becomes a registered pharmacist does not make sense — there are not enough jobs to go around.
In a recent interview (
The Pharmaceutical Journal 2014;293:573), David Branford, chairman of the English Pharmacy Board of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, said pharmacy roles in primary care may be the answer to “mopping up” the oversupply. But where is the finance? The new funding contract of £2.5bn, which represents a loss of income of £870, is not the ticket. He goes on to say that if the roles are unsuccessful and the numbers continue to grow, unemployment is inevitable. Well, the inevitable will happen a lot sooner than he thinks, if it has not started to happen already.
So how will the pharmacy schools respond when the best students desert the profession in droves? Will they run the departments with only a handful of top quality students or will they make up the numbers by taking on students who would have struggled to get on to a needlework course, but now fancy their chances as a registered pharmacist?
The problem is that pharmacy has little control over government funding, so we are constantly at the mercy of those who hold the purse strings.