In the recent coverage of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society conference in The Pharmaceutical Journal, there was a focus on the need to manage the number of students studying pharmacy in order to resolve the oversupply of pharmacists (online, 7 September 2014).
The British Pharmaceutical Students’ Association executive fears that the issue of the increasing number of students graduating with an MPharm and the decreasing number of pre-registration placements is being overlooked.
It is this mismatch that needs to be addressed. It is not the oversupply of pharmacists but an expected oversupply of pharmacy graduates — who will be prevented from qualifying due to lack of pre-registration posts — that is the problem.
Most students who enter the MPharm degree do so with the intention of becoming a registered pharmacist. This statement has been supported by the BPSA survey given to all first-year MPharm students in 2013, which highlighted that over 95% of students “strongly agree” or “agree” that they eventually want to register as pharmacists on completion of their degree course.
The issue we face currently is that the increasing number of pharmacy students is not going to match the number of pre-registration places available, potentially leaving students who have studied for four years with the intention of registering as a pharmacist being unable to do so.
A deficit each year will cause a build up of pharmacy graduates applying for pre-registration places, further exacerbating the problem. In addition to this, the uncertainty surrounding the ability to obtain a pre-registration place — and eventually register as a pharmacist — may have the added effect of discouraging high calibre students from applying to MPharm degree programmes. They may decide to pursue degrees with better employment opportunities. This could have a detrimental effect on the future of the profession.
The BPSA executive calls on schools of pharmacy, pre-registration trainee employers and training providers to start working together to ensure that the number of students enrolled on to the pharmacy course matches the number of pre-registration placements available.
How would readers feel if they had worked hard for four years to complete their MPharm degree to then be unable to register as a pharmacist because there were insufficient pre-registration places available? This issue needs to be addressed now before it becomes a daunting reality.
On behalf of the British Pharmaceutical Students’ Association executive