Differential attainment gap persists for black pharmacy students and trainees, says RPS report

Data show that 94% of white graduates were awarded a first or upper second-class MPharm degree in 2019/2020 and 2020/2021, compared with 82% of black graduates.
Black male student using laptop

A degree awarding gap of 12 percentage points and a registration assessment attainment gap of 23 percentage points persists between black and white pharmacy trainees, a report from the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) has revealed.

The report — ‘Chasing equality in pharmacy training — closing the awarding and attainment gap for black trainees in pharmacy’, published on 5 February 2024 — examines the differential MPharm degree awarding gap and registration assessment attainment for black trainees in initial pharmacy education and training.

It reported that 94% of white graduates were awarded a first or upper second-class MPharm degree in 2019/2020 and 2020/2021, compared with 82% of black graduates.

The data also suggest that the summer 2023 attainment gap between trainees who described themselves as “Black or Black British: African” and those who described themselves as “White: British” for first-time sitters of the foundation registration assessment was 23 percentage points.

The RPS formed a specialist working group in October 2023 to tackle the attainment and awarding gaps experienced by black pharmacy students and foundation trainees.

The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) first recorded differential variation — the unexplained variation in attainment between groups who share a protected characteristic, such as ethnicity, gender and disability — in pharmacy attainment for black trainees in 2013.

Lead author of the report, Amandeep Doll, head of professional belonging and engagement at the RPS, said that the gaps were “inequitable and deeply disappointing, with real-world impacts on individuals and their careers”.

“This report is a call to action for the entire pharmacy community to prioritise the reduction of degree awarding and registration differential attainment gaps, and provide greater equity for black trainees,” she added.

The report was informed by a coalition of stakeholders, including the RPS, British Pharmaceutical Students’ Association (BPSA), Black Pharmacists Collective, Black Pharmacist Initiative, GPhC, NHS England and the Pharmacy Schools Council.

Doll said: “[The] RPS and its partner organisations are united in our commitment to addressing this issue. By working together and implementing the recommendations of the report, we can make a real difference and create a more inclusive and diverse pharmacy profession which ultimately benefits patient care.”

The report identifies specific areas of focus and makes recommendations to tackle the gap, including:

  • Improving data collection and analysis;
  • Promoting inspiration, aspiration and role models;
  • Removing bias from processes;
  • Providing support during the transition from pharmacy student to foundation training placements.

Additionally, the report emphasises the importance of educational supervisor training, the implementation of protected learning time in foundation trainee placements and an annual equality, diversity and inclusion forum to ensure good practice is being shared across schools of pharmacy and training placements.

Nonyelum Anigbo, president of the BPSA, said that the differential attainment continued to “hold back many black trainee pharmacists from becoming qualified”.

“Year on year, the differential attainment gap leads to the profession losing talented potential pharmacists from underrepresented and diverse backgrounds,” she added.

“Equitable changes need to be made to ensure black pharmacy students and trainees are given opportunities and support to reach their full potential and successfully join the pharmacy workforce.”

The RPS plans to create smaller groups from the report’s working group to act on the recommendations, with the working group due to meet every six months to update on actions.

  • This article was amended on 8 February 2024 to clarify the percentages cited
Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, February 2024, Vol 312, No 7982;312(7982)::DOI:10.1211/PJ.2024.1.223423

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