Layer 1

Government mulls cap on pharmacy student numbers

Careers The DH is to carry out a consultation on overhauling the pharmacy degree, including putting a cap on student numbers to reflect demand for pharmacists, following proposals laid out in an NHS report.

Pharmacy schools could soon have their student intakes capped, the Department of Health (DH) has announced, as part of proposals to overhaul the pharmacy degree programme.

Ministers suggested limiting pharmacy student numbers in the same way as medical and dental degrees, in a pharmacy education strategy proposed last week.

At a meeting last month, pharmacy minister Earl Howe and minister for universities and science David Willetts also suggested splitting the pre-registration year into two six-month placements, preferably divided between year four and year five of the course, following proposals raised in February last year by the NHS Modernising Pharmacy Careers Programme.

Ministers suggested changes to the pre-reg year and limiting pharmacy student numbers in the same way as medical and dental degrees

More on pharmacy students

Pharmacy student numbers could buck national       decline

Xrayser: Students are our lifeblood – don't limit them

C+D readers back calls to limit student numbers

The proposals came as part of an overall vision for pharmacy degrees that would emphasise clinical skills training and development in a five-year curriculum jointly owned, planned and delivered by universities and employers.

The DH said it would need to take into account funding constraints and carry out an impact assessment and consultation before the proposals could go ahead.

If agreed, the plans could ease concerns over the growing number of pharmacy students, following news earlier this month that three new pharmacy schools are due to open next year. The DH argued that a cap would be necessary to match student numbers to NHS-funded training placements.

"The number of students and training places will then reflect demand for the pharmacist workforce across the NHS in England, including community pharmacy, but also academia and the pharmaceutical industry," the government said.

The DH said it would now be exploring the preferred funding option with the UK Department for Business, Innovation and Sills and Higher Education Funding Council for England as part of a full impact assessment on the proposals.

A cap on student numbers was widely supported by C+D readers last month, despite Abertay University lecturer Kevin Smith branding restrictions anti-competitive.

The Modernising Pharmacy Careers boards was set up in 2009 to advise the DH on ways to improve the pharmacist workforce.

Would you welcome a cap on pharmacy student numbers?

Comment below or email us at [email protected] You can also find C+D on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook


Fethi Ibrahim, Pre-reg graduate

why are they opening three new schools of pharmacy, are we short of pharmacists? student cap wont make a lot of difference then

Sangeeta Kaur,

As a pharmacy student, I have been hearing many threats about the decline in pharmacy jobs and pay. This isn't motivating and I do believe there is a need for a cap on students to reduce the decline and to provide us a positive goal to pursue our degree, especially with the university fees so high!! I do not understand the need to open more schools of pharmacy.

Freelance Pharmacist, Academic pharmacist

Too late, salaries are already a disgrace. What is the point now. Seriously this is one of the most stressful and least rewarding professions ever. Rather be a bin man to be honest.

Gerry Diamond, Primary care pharmacist

God almighty anonymous freelance and drama queen academic is the market...get it...just the way it is and as an old fart there is not much can be done...

Clive Hodgson, Community pharmacist

A positive move, but something that should have been done years ago.

Even if capping were to be introduced for the next cohort of students it would be years for the effect to be felt and by then it will probably be too late.

Gerry Diamond, Primary care pharmacist

Clive you should get an MBE for efforts for pharmacy ...seriously!!!1

Clive Hodgson, Community pharmacist

Hi Gerry,

Thanks for the thought! My cousin got a C.B.E.last year so I am feeling a little left out.

I am just a tiny, tiny bit suspicious that your comment may be a little tongue in cheek or, looking at the time of your post, may be the product of an very enthusiastic Christmas Eve Party!

Anyway, all the best for Christmas & New Year to you.


Dorothy Drury, Locum pharmacist

What is the cost of producing a pharmacist in the UK and what is the cost to tax payers when there is no job? Many are now thinking of changing courses in order to have a chance of employment at the end of graduation. I know other graduates also have problems so is it now time to encourage school leavers to go into a trade and that university is not the be all and end all. It will be possible shortly that even if we had no schools of pharmacy in the UK we would still have no shortage of pharmacists, as plenty will come under free movement from the EU. It is no good wasting tax payers money, wasting 5 years when there is no prospect of a job and you end up with £30,000 of student debt.

Chad Harris, Community pharmacist

Agreed, too little, too late. And with Lloyds dropping to 19/hr, I am now actively looking for a new job. Community pharmacy is set to become a job for robot serfs servile to the multiples.
Oh, and still 3 new schools of pharmacy to open in 2013! Ha! Plus all the EU ones flocking here too! Bloody Ted Heath we can blame for that!

Dorothy Drury, Locum pharmacist

If you go to any pharmacy training session you see that most pharmacists have not trained in the UK or done their pre-reg in the UK. Therefore reducing the number of University places won't make any difference unless it includes those overseas aswell.

Gerry Diamond, Primary care pharmacist

Hello Dorothy Drury, sounds as though you should write crime snooper novel.......Dorothy Drury Mysteries......over production of johnny foreigner pharmacists...written by liitle Englander.....join Ukip...

Clive Hodgson, Community pharmacist

I agree with you Dorothy, but it is possible to do something about UK graduate numbers noting that there are even more new Universities coming on stream next year.

I am not aware of any mechanism that could be used to restrict the flow of EU pharmacists to this country.

Dorothy Drury, Locum pharmacist

Therefore if you cap British Universities what will stop even more pharmacists coming from the EU? Look at the "Free movement of professionals in the EU" click on pharmacists and you will see that there are about 1,040 movements to the UK per year and hardly any from the UK to the EU. Also if we were to move to other EU countries we have to apply for a licence, and not only know the language of that country but all local requirments. It is not a reciprocal arrangement. Also EU pharmacists can claim back income tax paid here after 3 years if they return home for 181 days, then they can come back. So we could be loosing essential tax to help support the NHS which has to be paid by British pharmacists. This arrangement is not reciprocal either as the law was made in Brussels and accepted by the UK but not yet by other EU countries who opted for transitional allowances which our government did not.

Clive Hodgson, Community pharmacist


There is NOTHING you or anyone can do to stop EU Pharmacists coming here anytime soon.

There were 3,000 pharmacy graduates from the UK in 2011 – an increase of almost a third since 2008. (Figures from C&D article). Additionally, another three Universities are due to start offering Pharmacy courses in 2013.

UK oversupply of graduates is a MAJOR part of the problem but at least something CAN be done about that although I am not holding my breath that anything will.

I fear that that it will all be too little, too late.

Chris Locum, Locum pharmacist

It is like shutting off the engines on an oil tanker. It keeps in motion without any immediate effect - just like this issue.

We don't need another 3 schools of pharmacy and how can Government provide for new graduate placements in current financial crisis climate to this level?

Wheels were set in motion for cheaper labour and that's what we are getting. The consequences are only just starting. There is no realistic way to limit anyone coming as an EU national. It is their right.

Merely halting the 3 new schools alone will not have any impact. We might not make a difference limiting intake in current education establishments unless it really was significant.

Without new clearly defined career pathways within the community sector at any rate, it will continue to erode as a job worth doing with the paperwork,stress and reduction of resources - human and otherwise.

Dorothy Drury, Locum pharmacist

Yes agreed we do not need 3 more schools of pharmacy but this will not make much impact. The free movement of EU pharmacists is equivalent to 16 schools of pharmacy intakes per year.

Dorothy Drury, Locum pharmacist

When workforce surveys were done 5 years ago there was a need for a slight increase in pharmacist numbers, more pharmacists being employed by PCTs, training posts and prospects of being a pharmacist not just in community and hospital. If you look back to the fallow year when the degree moved form 3 to 4 years, we had a massive shortage of pharmacists. It took 3-4 years to recover, so you are right any oversupply will take a while to fall back. I still think the oversupply is from the EU universities and not British Universities. Many customers are now commenting on the difficulties of understanding pharmacists whose first language is not English.

geoffrey gardener, Community pharmacist


Laurence Wells, Community pharmacist

What you are saying is very true. I am just thankful they have started to pay attention and do something about it. In my home city of Hong Kong, pharmacists haven't even nearly gain the kind of respect from seniors doctors we get from GPs--the debate for separation of prescribing and dispensing has been going on for the last two decades or so, and not a thing has changed.

Job of the week

Pharmacist (qualified Independent Prescriber)
London (Central), London (Greater)
Annual salary to start at £52,000 based on a 40 hour week.