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79% of readers firmly against five-year pharmacist apprenticeship

PDA Union national officer Paul Day: It's not surprising that C+D readers are against the proposal
PDA Union national officer Paul Day: It's not surprising that C+D readers are against the proposal

Four fifths of pharmacists and staff who responded to a C+D poll do not support the introduction of a five-year pharmacist apprenticeship.

Of the 202 respondents to the poll – which ran on the C+D website from April 18-26 – 160 (79%) said they do not support the introduction of a five-year pharmacist apprenticeship “under any circumstances”.

A further 32 (16%) said they were not sure, and “it would depend on the specific proposal and training provided”, while just 10 (5%) said they would be “confident in the pharmacists produced from such a scheme”.

Sector-wide reaction

The results come two weeks after C+D reported that a proposal for a level 7 pharmacist apprenticeship – equivalent to a master’s degree – was under consideration in a 10-day consultation launched by an employer-led public body.

The proposal prompted the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) to organise a meeting with the body behind the proposals – the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education – next week.

Commenting on the poll results this morning (April 26), PDA Union national officer Paul Day said it is no surprise that C+D readers have rejected the apprenticeship proposal.

“[It] seems to have been developed in secret, by unnamed employers, with no wider sector involvement or conversation,” he said.

He also claimed the wording in the proposal that states “pharmacists…are not required to diagnose and manage medical care” misdescribes the role of a pharmacist across all community, hospital and primary care organisations.

The PDA aims to put its concerns to the institute next week, including questioning the claim that the proposals were driven by pharmacy companies looking for solutions to workforce issues in the sector. “What skills gaps are [pharmacy employers] trying to address?” Mr Day asked.

“Apprenticeships add value to the UK economy, but there needs to be full understanding of the implications of a pharmacist apprenticeship before it is considered,” he added.

“The process so far has not done well for the credibility of the apprenticeship scheme.”

RPS meets the institute

In a statement today, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) said the institute has agreed to provide “much more detail” on the proposals, after RPS members raised concerns.

The RPS expects the institute to publish an “explanatory note on apprenticeships” soon. This “needs to be followed by a full, detailed explanation of the pharmacy degree apprenticeship proposals, which must be subject to scrutiny, and opportunity provided for feedback”, it stressed.

Read both sides of the pharmacist apprenticeship debate and find out everything we know about the proposals

Would you have considered a pharmacist apprenticeship if it was available?

Steven Wignall, Dispenser Manager/ Dispensing Assistant

I have to say the whole issue does raise a complete and valid point, that there is a place in the pharmacy workplace for someone who is better trained, more qualified, and can take the workload off pharmacists / pharmacist managers.

I disagree with the apprenticeship, as not all people who work in pharmacy have the clinical and scientific background (or enthusiasm), to commit and complete a course which would have extreme responsibilities and thorough knowledge.

I studied biomedical science at university (if only I knew then what I knew would of been the best option....12 years ago anyway). Therefore I’m focused, have the clinical and medical knowledge, the skills to be a leader, and theoretically could be a great pharmacist....if only going back to University was cheap enough for second degrees!!

I do say this with complete respect, but honestly there are some pharmacists who aren’t as competent or medically aware as some great counter assistants. And it is to this I can see why the apprenticeship programme has been discussed. In a lot of circumstances, the wrong people are in the wrong positions, simply down to unfortunate decisions or the lack of support (in a wide range of aspects) for post grads to become pharmacists via the academic route.

However, I can see these apprentices being abused by the large multiples, as mentioned in previous comments. No ifs or buts, it has always happened, just as it happens right now with Pharmacy staff being undervalued/overworked/underpaid compared to the pharmacists who steal the thunder.

instead of apprenticeships, the role of ATC’s should be discussed, give them more training, and ensure that all pharmacies pursue ATC’s being a part of the pharmacy set up. Far too many companies now expect dispensers to do the roles of ATC’s, but still pay minimum wage. Is it not time to recognise the importance of them, and give people like myself the extra chance to flex all muscles and be the helping hand that is so needed in the pharmacy sector? Some people in pharmacies are better than the pharmacists...a point forgotten about far too easily. Do I see the apprenticeship programme or active interest in developing dispensers to ATC’s (or perhaps a new status...HEATC...Higher educated ATC) happen? Not one bit, and I pity people in University studying pharmacy right now, as the professional status has gone the same way as biomedical scientists....there are no jobs!!!

Chris Locum, Locum pharmacist

The only gap is a profit gap for the multiples. Cheaper labour will be required as savings breach the category M agreed profit-level. A vicious cycle was enabled and even the big operators are no longer immune.

Meera Sharma, Pharmacy owner/ Proprietor

Forgive me I have not much knowledge about apprenticeships and how this works, but if it is driven by multiples who are levy payers, how does this affect independents? Sadly I have not seen any representation or engagement from the NPA on this. 

Last one out the door of the profession turn the lights off before you leave. I’ve got a train to catch...

N O, Pharmaceutical Adviser

Skill Gap ??? Normally if you lack a skill then you spend time and money on updating the skills of existing staff and NOT train someone completely new just for those skills !!! What extra skills are these apprentices going to gain from being trained by the existing Pharmacists and not going through the Uni route?? I can't see any extra learning being proposed compared to the existing route to become a Pharmacist, in fact less knowledge will be imparted. The Multiples just want some BS reason to pursue their agenda of recruiting more cheap labour at the cost of patient safety!!! SHAME

anti-depressed Pharmacist, Manager


It's Five years free labour for the multiples, they wont care if you pass or fail, they will just roll on the next fool.


Look at the pass rate of multiples compared to Hospitals


You will be worked to the bone stacking shelves jumping from store to store covering sickness and understaffed stores as they will never hire extra cover.


You will be so knackered by the time you get home you won't even have the energy to cook dinner let alone pick up a book to study. You wont get any support from the stressed out Pharmacist as She/He has an impossible target that needs to be reached, in fact it is more likely you will have a new Pharmacist Manager every 6-12 months as the turnover is so high and this will mean you have five years of instability compared to University. The Area Manger will never respond to your concerns as they are too busy bullying staff.


If the pass rate is so poor after just one year of multiples training just imagine what it will be like with 5 years?


Leon The Apothecary, Student

This is less of a debate and more of a very clear message saying no. Nothing in government has been so clear cut for the last three years. At this stage, this proposal is dead on arrival and should be trashed. C&D survey may only be a slice of the demographic, but I feel it's very indicative of what to expect from the larger audience.

Lucky Ex-Boots Slave, Primary care pharmacist

Those 5% supporting this are likely to be the ones with conflict of interests. I'll not be surprised if they are all superintendents and those holding area/regional/divisional posts who will sell out their own profession just to cut costs and to earn more money!

David Moore, Locum pharmacist

I don't see any skill gap. What I see is employers seeking to cut parmacists' salary.

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