Pharmacy student leaders have hit back at claims by Abertay University lecturer Kevin Smith that restrictions on the number of pharmacy students would be "detrimental on a wider scale".
Without managed supply and demand of pharmacists, students could be left "stranded" and "unable to complete their education", chair of the Pharmacy Schools Council John Smart and president of the British Pharmacy Students Association Vikesh Kakad have warned.
Their comments came after Mr Smith, a lecturer in genetics and bioethics, accused them of "special pleading" in a letter to the magazine Times Higher Education (TES).
Any restriction on the number of pharmacy university entrants would impose "needless costs on the healthcare system", Mr Smith wrote last week, following a TES article about plans to lobby the government to control entry for undergraduate pharmacy courses.
Pharmacy leaders claimed that, without managed supply and demand of pharmacists, students could be left "stranded"
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"Unless the profession's trade bodies manage (as they surely will) to fix salaries artificially, the economics of supply and demand would gradually drive down the remuneration of pharmacists to a more reasonable and socially beneficial level," he wrote.
And Mr Smith told C+D this week restrictions would place pharmacy students in a "privileged position" and constitute "anti-competitive" practice that would be "detrimental on a wider scale".
"It is a form of anti-competitive 'Spanish practice' of the sort that tends to emerge in vocational subjects, with economically detrimental and unjust effects," Mr Smith told C+D.
"Naturally professional bodies and other interested parties will try to defend their position, and attempting to restrict numbers is one way of doing this."
In his letter to TES, Mr Smith wrote that pharmacists' role was "relatively straightforward... entailing the provision of medicines that have already been packaged, measured and tested".
But hitting back in their own letter to TES, shown exclusively to C+D before publication this week, Professor Smart and Mr Kakad accused Mr Smith of possessing "limited knowledge" of pharmacy education and urged him to "pop down to his local pharmacy to find out what it does".
"The problem we highlight is that, unlike other healthcare professions, there is no mechanism to manage supply and demand in the educational process for pharmacists," they wrote.
"Mr Smith might be surprised to learn that matters have moved beyond ‘the provision of medicines that have already been packaged'," they added.
Speaking at the Pharmacists' Defence Association conference earlier this year, Professor Smart said there were more than 3,000 pharmacy graduates in 2011 – an increase of almost a third since 2008.
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