In 2018, my friend Mohammed Imran and I embarked on a journey to provide training and development opportunities for current and aspiring healthcare professionals by setting up an independent training organisation called Primary Healthcare Development.
As the years progressed, we have found success through a variety of projects, including a foundation pharmacist revision programme, undergraduate placements and GP pharmacist training, which has meant that we were able to revisit one of our initial ambitions — to get to a position where we could ring-fence some of our annual budget to work on not-for profit initiatives.
Our inaugural not-for profit initiative came in the form of the Pharmacy Foundation Bursary Award (formerly known as the Primary HD Bursary Award). This bursary award was set up to explore the reasons behind the well-documented differential attainment gap in General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) registration assessment outcomes between Black-African preregistration/trainee pharmacists and candidates of other ethnicities.
During 2020, Mohammed and I engaged in discussions to decide what the bursary award should entail. We felt that including support for the GPhC registration assessment and providing some form of mentorship throughout the training year would be a good start, since the former could assist trainees with the ‘knowledge’ side of assessment preparation, and the latter could help in providing guidance, motivation and wellbeing support.
Since we wanted to ensure maximum impact from the bursary award, we felt that the trainees receiving the award should have their training in a community pharmacy setting, owing to the fact that registration assessment outcomes for this sector of practice have historically been poorer when compared with hospital pharmacy. We also felt that trainees should come from a university with a relatively low GPhC pass rate in the year prior to the bursary award being offered.
Following on from our initial ideas, we contacted five different universities and the UK Black Pharmacists Association (UKBPA) to gain feedback on our approach and see how these stakeholders could help with the selection of trainees. Responses provided valuable insight into the bursary award plans, which ultimately enabled us to finalise what should be included.
The inaugural bursary award ran during the 2021/2022 foundation pharmacist (pre-registration) training year and was offered to one alumnus from each of the following universities:
- Kingston University, London;
- University of Central Lancashire, Preston;
- University of Portsmouth;
- University of Reading;
- University of Wolverhampton.
Each trainee was offered a ‘support package’ worth just over £1,400, which consisted of:
- A monthly foundation training revision programme provided by Pharmacy Foundations;
- Pharmaceutical calculations support;
- Mock GPhC registration assessment;
- Monthly mentorship with experienced pharmacist members of UKBPA;
- Induction and quarterly general meetings.
One of the five trainee had to pause their foundation training year a few months into the training owing to personal circumstances; however, the remaining four completed their training year, fully engaged with the bursary award and passed their registration assessment first time.
Although the number of trainees involved with the bursary award was relatively small, this 100% pass rate is certainly something worth celebrating.
Feedback from the trainees about the foundation training year, as well as the support made available through the bursary award was collected at quarterly checkpoints and at the end of the training year.
Some comments from trainees have included:
- “The revision material provided by the bursary award was key to my training year success”;
- “The dedication of UKBPA mentors and Pharmacy Foundations tutors really allowed me to have a positive outlook on the training year”;
- “Having the opportunity to talk about and freely discuss race-related issues had a great influence on my training year”.
With this success, Pharmacy Foundations has decided to continue funding the bursary award for the current training year. The desire to carry on with this work has also been met with support from three of the previous university partners, as well as the UKBPA, with two of the university partners opting to fund an additional trainee each. This means that for 2022/2023, seven trainees will be funded to receive the bursary award under the same criteria as 2021/2022.
The Pharmacy Foundations team intend to use the information collected from the trainees throughout the training year to improve the bursary award and to identify the main barriers and enablers for training year success among Black-African trainees. The team has also recruited one of the trainees from the 2021/2022 bursary award as an adviser for the initiative.
Atif Saddiq is assistant professor and advanced clinical practitioner in primary care at the University of Bradford and co-founder and head of education at Pharmacy Foundations