A confidential evaluation of the pharmacy foundation training trial in the UK has said “a lack of engagement” from some supervisors and the time taken to prepare for the registration exam were some of the main barriers to learning.
Based on interviews with 31 provisionally registered pharmacists taking the Interim Foundation Pharmacist Programme (IFPP), the report unearthed “a lot of confusion” over the responsibilities of supervisors — senior pharmacists providing educational and practical support to those going through the programme — which was undermining the support they were given under the programme.
The report was obtained by The Pharmaceutical Journal through a freedom of information request and may have implications for the roll-out of the foundation year for all MPharm graduates, which began in summer 2021.
Market research company IFF Research conducted interviews with 18 provisionally registered pharmacists working in hospital pharmacy and 13 working in community pharmacy, and wrote a report on them in May 2021. This forms part of a wider evaluation of the IFPP, which is expected to be published in January 2022.
Health Education England (HEE) commissioned the evaluation in November 2020 following the launch of a one-year voluntary programme begun in September 2020 to support a cohort of provisionally registered trainees unable to take the registration exam owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the Interim Foundation Pharmacist Curriculum, published by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society in August 2020, educational supervisors expected to “meet regularly with the foundation pharmacist in training to review progress through the curriculum”.
However, IFF Research’s report noted “widely varying levels of engagement with the programme among supervisors, which has a knock-on impact on the engagement of learners”.
The report said: “There is a lot of confusion over the roles and responsibilities of supervisors, which is understandable given that resources for supervisors are still being developed.
“Learners who have benefited from IFPP supervision do not tend to need to spend a lot of time with supervisors.
“At the same time, those who have not benefited from IFPP supervision complain, above all, that they haven’t been able to attract sufficient time and interest from supervisors.
“Some degree of time/interest is necessary for supervisors to introduce learners to resources and a number of learners are not receiving this ‘base’ level of supervision.”
The report suggested that lack of engagement “appears to be where supervisors are in senior roles and hence less available to learners”.
Overall, the report said the pharmacist trainees who “engaged with the IFPP resources find that the IFPP has helped them learn in a way that is directly relevant to their practice”, but added that the “main barriers to learning through the IFPP are a) a lack of engagement and support from supervisors, and b) a lack of time, exacerbated by COVID-19-pressures and the need to revise for the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) assessment”.
Duncan Rudkin, chief executive of the GPhC, told The Pharmaceutical Journal in December 2020 that it is looking into the “right timing and method” of the registration assessment, including whether it should be held earlier in training.
Matt Aiello, national programmes lead at HEE, said the evaluation was commissioned “to ensure that our programmes reflect the needs of the workforce and enable our trainees to have the highest quality education and training experience”.
“The interim report described the first part of the IFPP. There will be a final report evaluating the interim foundation pharmacy programme. The final report will cover the entire programme and will give a more detailed picture, offering insights and conclusions for HEE to respond to.”
HEE added in a statement on 26 August 2021 that the IFPP has now formally closed as it served its purpose of supporting those provisional registrants entering service during 2020/2021, with no plan to repeat the programme at this time.