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'Oversubscribed': Training places for overseas pharmacist courses full for next two years

Courses for the overseas pharmacists' assessment programme (OSPAP) starting in 2023 and 2024 are already full as high demand continues, the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) has confirmed.

A GPhC spokesperson told C+D last week (November 23) that “it is [their] understanding that OSPAP places are full”.

The regulator’s website also states that “all courses starting in 2023 and 2024 are already oversubscribed, due to high demand and applications carried over from last year”.

The spokesperson advised anyone wanting to take a place on an OSPAP course “to check with their preferred university or universities about availability before submitting an application for OSPAP eligibility”.

Read more: Well tempts overseas pharmacists with £8k support package and training offer

It is not up to the regulator to “set the number of places available” in each OSPAP course, they clarified.

“That is a matter for universities,” they said.

C+D has asked the regulator whether it is considering increasing the number of universities that offer OSPAP in light of the oversubscription.

It has also asked whether the GPhC has had any communication with universities running the programme about them increasing the number of places available in each year.

 

OSPAP oversubscription a barrier

 

Speaking to C+D earlier this month, pharmacy workforce transformation lead for Norfolk and Waveney integrated care board (ICB), Ceinwen Mannall, said that the OSPAP programmes’ oversubscription present a “challenge” for the pharmacy sector, which is facing pressures sustaining its workforce.

“We need pharmacists,” she stated.

Overseas pharmacists face “significant barriers” to working in the UK, and employers also face barriers to recruiting them, Ms Mannall added.

“It frankly costs a lot of money and takes a lot of time, especially if you're from outside the European Economic Area and have to do the OSPAP programme, and then your foundation year,” she explained.

Read more: ICB to pilot portfolio careers for new pharmacists in bid to boost workforce

The lack of open spots in OSPAP courses “is one of the biggest hurdles that we that we need to get over”, she said.

Ms Mannall questioned whether the OSPAP programme is “still fit for purpose”, due to the “technical restrictions” surrounding it.

“I recognise that there's an awful lot of considerations in this discussion,” she said.

But she questioned whether, “from a professional point of view”, an additional postgraduate academic course was necessary for pharmacists who already hold a pharmacy qualification from a different country.

 

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