The current application process for pre-registration places is inefficient. I believe a UCAS-style application process which merges hospital and community into one platform with one timeline is what we require to ensure that all available spaces are taken and all trainees have a place.
With the current set-up, students apply to the community pharmacies they wish to work in, get an interview, and then may get a place. This is fine for those who want to work in community but many students want places in industry, hospital or, in the future, general practice. What happens to a student who wants to work in a sector other than community when hospital applications begin in June and applications for community are open earlier in January? It makes sense to apply to community and then leave if a hospital pre-registration application is successful. However, this means the community pharmacy now has to find a replacement. Students understand that leaving a pharmacy after taking a pre-registration place puts the company in a difficult position. But we must also think about what we want and what would happen if we do not seek a place in community and are not accepted later on by any hospital.
Some pharmacists may not know about UCAS so I will give a brief overview of the way it works.
1) Students make an account on the website and fill their details in (including work experience, referees and qualifications).
2) Students are then required to write a personal statement.
3) After a set time, students apply to five universities through the website with their details and choose the course they want to study there.
4) The chosen universities may then contact students directly for interviews or indicate on UCAS that they have an offer or have been rejected.
5) After offers are made, students choose a preferred and a backup institution.
If pharmacy were to use this system, it would mean community, hospital and other sectors offering pre-registration training would follow the same timeline. It would also mean students would only be able only hold two places at a time across the sectors.
I understand that this is a monumental task. But this system would ensure all pre-registration places were taken. This could, at least, be tested for summer placements or pre-registration applications in small chains and independent community pharmacies that may struggle to attract students like their larger counterparts.