New standards for pharmacy education and training could have a “negative impact” on recruitment of pharmacy students, Community Pharmacy Scotland (CPS) has said.
The organisation, which represents community pharmacy owners in Scotland, warned that proposed General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) standards for initial education and training “if not implemented sensibly, may have a negative impact upon recruitment, which is already experiencing a decline”.
In its consultation response to the GPhC’s consultation on revisions to the standards, CPS said its concerns were shared by pharmacy schools.
The CPS response, published on 18 March 2019, said: “In all home countries, there is a significant projected shortage of pharmacists in the coming years as new roles develop, meaning that now more than ever the pipeline into the profession must be robust and sustainable as we seek to improve quality through the introduction of new standards.
“There is admittedly more to be done by the profession as a whole to attract students to the various roles that pharmacists fulfil, but we cannot have the implementation of the new standards actively discouraging people from applying to study MPharm degrees.”
The GPhC’s consultation, which opened in January 2019 and is due to close on 3 April 2019, places a focus on enhanced interpersonal and communication skills in the MPharm course, but the CPS expressed concerns that the proposals were setting unrealistically high expectations for “unwavering professionalism”.
It said: “A sensible balance must be struck somewhere between recognising that a professional, vocational course such as the MPharm demands more from students than the passing of academic tests and expecting perfection at all times in all areas of their lives.”
The CPS added in its response that further guidance was required to describe at which points during the initial education and training journey a student would be expected to be able to demonstrate a given level of competence for each standard.
“It cannot be the case that a student must demonstrate competence at the described level in order to graduate as there is then no scope for improvement between graduation and registration — unless co-terminus degrees are being mandated by the GPhC — which does not appear to be the case.
“We absolutely understand that the degree is and should be challenging…[but] the skills and attributes which are most important in a practising pharmacist of the future are not typically assessed or highlighted through performance in early education.”
On 14 February 2019, CPS confirmed that recruitment problems with pharmacists and pharmacy technicians, which had been affecting rural and remote districts, were now emerging in urban areas in Scotland.