Pharmacy’s bitter pill

November 6, 2014

Greg Clark, the universities minister, has announced that there will be no attempt to manage entry into undergraduate pharmacy programmes in England (“Warning: NHS to take as required”, News in brief, 23 October).

Instead the NHS will “take as required” such graduates to complete their pharmacy training to meet the needs of England. The rest will either have to pay significant sums privately to complete their professional training or seek employment elsewhere.

The Centre for Workforce Intelligence predicts an oversupply of pharmacists (with the growth of English schools of pharmacy in the past decade leading to a large rise in graduate numbers in the coming years). It was this, along with the need to refine the curriculum at undergraduate level to better prepare pharmacy graduates for their future roles, that inspired the efforts to match entrants to pharmacy degrees to future training and workforce needs.

Surveys of pharmacy students completed by the British Pharmaceutical Students’ Association indicate that the vast majority of entrants into university pharmacy courses enrol in the expectation of going on to practise as pharmacists, so this is likely to leave many high and dry, and about £50,000 worse off.

Clark’s predecessor, David Willetts, at the start of the consultation on managing student numbers, laudably stated that “securing the student interest” was a key priority. If it is still a priority, I would be interested in knowing how it works, as this appears to be simply unkind.

John Smart
University of Brighton

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