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Little effort to close black/white trainee ‘attainment gap’, report warns

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) has criticised the lack of progress on the ‘gap’ between the proportion of black and white pharmacy trainees who pass the summer registration assessment.  

A new report released today (February 6) by the RPS has found a 23 percentage point difference between the pass rate for black and white pharmacy trainees who sat the 2023 summer registration exam first time.

Annual data included in the report highlighted that this “attainment gap” figure has remained unchanged since 2022.

The RPS report also found that of the 5,210 MPharm degree students who graduated from 30 universities between 2019/20 and 2020/21, there was a 12 percentage point difference between the number of black and white students obtaining top grades in their pharmacy degree.

It said that this was the largest MPharm “awarding gap” between students of different ethnicities, the overall gap between white and ethnic minority MPharm graduates being eight percentage points.

“While some notable progress has been made in some areas…the degree awarding and registration attainment gaps persist” more than a decade since “differential attainment in pharmacy was first recognised”, the report added.


“Marked absence of concerted and persistent effort”


In a foreword to the report, RPS England board chair Tase Oputu and head of professional belonging and engagement Amandeep Kaur Doll said that the continuing result disparities revealed “an alarming truth”.

“Shockingly, despite being public knowledge, there has been a marked absence of concerted and persistent efforts to rectify this issue”, they said. 

The RPS bosses stressed that the sector’s “inertia to address these disparities reflects a deep-seated problem rooted in decades of structural and organisational racism and inequalities” faced by black pharmacy students “from the initial entry into higher education”.

Closing both registration exam and degree award attainment gaps for black students “is a matter of moral imperative and strategic necessity”, they added.


More support needed


The RPS recommended that to reduce the attainment gap between students of different ethnicities, organisations should improve data collection and analysis and focus on “inspiring current and prospective students”.

It recommended that “support during the transition from pharmacy student to foundation training placements” should be provided “from across different parts” of the sector and registration system and stressed the importance of “removing bias” from admission processes.

The RPS also said that it has formed a working group with the British Pharmaceutical Students Association (BPSA), General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC), NHS England’s Chief Pharmaceutical Officer (CPhO) Office, Workforce Training & Education (WT&E) Team and Inclusive Professional Practice (IPP) Advisory Board, Pharmacy Schools Council and pharmacy school representatives.

Meanwhile, the “first-ever” Pharmacy Workforce Race Equality Standard (WRES) report found in September that “pharmacy team members of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) origin” experienced “more harassment, bullying and abuse, poorer career progression and greater…discrimination than white pharmacy team members”.

It also found that BAME pharmacy staff only made up 20% of staff in the highest NHS pay band in March 2022, despite 43% of NHS trust pharmacists in England being from a BAME background, compared to 18% of the general population.

In October, the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) also found that white pharmacists were under-represented in the Fitness-to-Practise (FtP) concerns it received in 2021/22.

And in December, the regulator changed its FtP hearings guidance to consider “cultural differences” more comprehensively.

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