We are extremely disappointed with the decision made by MP Greg Clark that it “is not necessary to implement a specific student number control for pharmacy”. As we set out in our response to the consultation in 2013, the British Pharmaceutical Students’ Association (BPSA) does not support a free-market-based approach to the management of student numbers. We believe that a control at the point of entry would have the least impact on concerned parties. We hope that the minister’s comments will not have a negative impact on the continued development of the five-year degree proposal. We assume that the five-year degree would inherently impose some form of intake control and believe that the profession and the public can only benefit from a more integrated approach to undergraduate pharmacy education.
However, the issue that has most concerned the BPSA — and remains of great concern moving forward — is the growing imbalance between pharmacy student numbers and pre-registration training places available (2014;293:342). This deficit of training places will worsen over the coming years if no management at intake is put in place. We are pleased to note the focus on educating prospective students of the challenges they will face in securing a pre-registration training placement post-graduation and thus eventually registering as a pharmacist.
However, we do believe that significantly more needs to be done. We call on the Pharmacy Schools Council to work more closely with pre-registration placement providers to help close this gap. This may be achieved in a number of ways, including looking at alternative avenues for split pre-registration placements such as between academia and a patient-facing role (in either the community or hospital sector) and increasing the number of split placements available within the pharmaceutical industry. We understand that discussions around the funding of such placements would be necessary but we believe this could be a valuable development in broadening the opportunities available to pre-registration trainees and help to increase the research focus of the upcoming pharmacy workforce.
It is essential that the stakeholders in this issue take action as a matter of urgency because increasing numbers of unemployed pharmacy graduates will have a negative impact on the profession. Not only will this make a pharmacy degree less attractive in the eyes of the best students, who will opt for courses with less risk or better future career prospects, but will in turn risk down-skilling the future pharmacy workforce. This will devalue the pharmacy profession as a whole and mean that pharmacists will be less able to meet the needs of the public.
Public Relations Officer 2014-2015
British Pharmaceutical Students’ Association