Half of all preregistration training places offered through the Oriel preregistration recruitment platform were unfilled this year, latest figures have shown.
The figures for 2020, published in the Health Education England (HEE) preregistration pharmacist recruitment newsletter, show that while there were 3,966 pharmacy preregistration places advertised on the platform — an increase of 25% compared with 2019 — there were just 2,215 eligible applicants. This meant that only 51% could be filled.
HEE said offers of community pharmacy placements had increased by 31% since 2019, while the number of eligible applicants in 2020 increased by 9.3%.
The fill rate data also showed regional variation in the number of placements filled. Wales had the highest fill rate at 77%, followed by London at 66%. South-west England had the lowest proportion of places filled, at 29%.
Sarah Crawshaw, a teacher practitioner at Day Lewis Pharmacy and Bath University, said that comparing this year’s figures with those from the previous two years showed that the south west has “a similar number of accepted places, but it seems that the number [of placements] available has gone up significantly, which could be considered a positive”.
But she added that it is “difficult to know until the more in-depth results are published by HEE”.
Crawshaw suggested the region’s fill rate could be improved by “increasing exposure to what is going on in the south west”.
“There are some really innovative things being done down here, and pharmacists really are being used to their maximum potential in places, as we are so short of other healthcare professionals,” she said.
Graham Stretch, pharmacist and clinical director of Brentworth Primary Care Network, said that while many preregistration training providers may have been disappointed this year, it would be unfair to blame the Oriel recruitment process.
“[Oriel] is effectively a dating agency: no one is mandated or guaranteed a place. It’s about selling yourself, making your placement attractive; including the payscales and the training and support available. You’ve got to find out what you can do, within the system, to maximise your chances of getting a trainee.
“There is also a huge onus on students: they need to do their due diligence and choose their sites carefully,” he said.
HEE said in the newsletter that a full evaluation of the recruitment process will be published in due course.
The Pharmaceutical Journal has approached HEE for comment.