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'Neglected' students deterred from pharmacy after witnessing pressures

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BPSA members have reported feeling neglected on community pharmacy placements

Students witnessing the increasing workplace pressures in community pharmacies are being “put off” joining the sector, the BPSA has told C+D.

Students on placements in community pharmacy settings “can see that pharmacists are under pressure and are not able to devote a lot of time to them”, according to British Pharmaceutical Students' Association (BPSA) treasurer Sean Brannen.

“Some of our members have told us they feel quite neglected and that is giving them a really negative view of the sector,” he told C+D at its parliamentary event on pharmacy pressures on Monday (September 9).

BPSA president Regan McCahill echoed these comments to C+D, stating: “A lot of our members say they have been on a placement and the community pharmacist has said: 'Don't do pharmacy.'

“We are asking more and more of community pharmacists and not giving them the support to deal with the extra [workload] and students are put off by that.”

She suggested this perception of the sector could be contributing to “a reduction in the number of pharmacy students wanting to do the degree”. While Mr Brannen said the rising stress levels in community pharmacy “may be pushing [students] to other sectors”.

Protecting the pipeline

Ms McCahill stressed that with rising pressures and increasing workloads, soon “we are not going to have any [pharmacists] to do the tasks we’re asking of them”.

“We need to do something about it now to protect the future.”

Mr Brannen added: “We want pharmacists to feel supported. If you’re sending students on placements in your company, you need to make sure structures are in place for them to feel supported.”

He suggested assigning a dedicated member of staff – who is not a pharmacist – for the student to turn to when the pharmacist is under pressure, “so they are not standing around and getting that negative impression”.

C+D takes pharmacy pressures to parliament

On Monday (September 9), C+D and the charity Pharmacist Support brought together MPs, pharmacy representatives and pharmacists to discuss the rise of stress and workplace pressures among pharmacy teams.

The parliamentary event took place in Portcullis House, Westminster, and was hosted by all-party pharmacy group chair Sir Kevin Barron MP.

You can read C+D editor James Waldron’s address to the event – in which he highlighted disturbing data from C+D readers about the extent of pressures in pharmacies – as well as the key points from each speaker.

If you would like to share your experiences, please email [email protected]

22 Comments
Question: 
Have you been able to support a pre-reg placement in your pharmacy this year?

Ian Davis, Community pharmacist

It’s funny, I always thought that the people posting on here had vastly different opinions to myself. But reading this thread and the opinions expressed, I have to say I pretty much agree with everyone. The big point that resonates loud and clear is ‘don’t do pharmacy’. I’ve worked in the community for over 16 years now, and it’s a desperately sad situation bearing no resemblance to the vision of pharmacy that I was sold. Job satisfaction is zero, corporate bureaucracy is at an all time high, as is pressure to do more for less. I must say I’m delighted to see the pre-reg exam pass rates plummeting (yes I did take it in the days before the students thought they had to right to tell the examiners how hard it should be!), and I think that the tougher stance can only help to weed out the underprepared and woefully inadequate breed of new pharmacists that are coming though unchecked.

Angela Channing, Community pharmacist

Hear! Hear!

What he said!   " woefully inadequate" 

L P, Community pharmacist

Exactly £20 an hour a joke, respect a joke, job satisfaction a joke, staff situation a joke. 

Staff abusing and disrespecting pharmacists acceptable

All because phamrcists accept these terms and conditions and can't say NO

Angela Channing, Community pharmacist

Personally I blame the Unis and school career advisors for selling a vision of pharmacy as a good, stable, well paid career choice as very 90s. It was back then. When I was applying in the late 80s, my Aunt said to me, " Oh what a lucrative profession, you will do very will in that!"  Well I did for about the first 15 years. I always try to talk to and involve the pharmacy student, we get them every summer, lots of them, usually muslim asian girls, but that could just be because I'm inner-city.I did say to one cocky young lad, if you only remember 3 words I say to you, it's " DON'T DO THIS".  I'm old now and feel it's too late to change. And can't be bothered. Only 10 yrs til retirement. Mortgage is paid off, so a couple of days a week for the bills and the ISA is all I need. I'm very fortunate. I feel sorry for these kids coming out now and being offered rates I was earning in the 90s. £14 and £16 an hour for all the responsibility. Is it worth it for that? I won't go below £20. Unless they are on my doorstep like a mile or two away and they pay £19.  But that was the locum rate in 2004!!!  I know there have been government cuts, but the global sum kept going up every year from 2008, when my rate was frozen til 2015/16 when the big cut came. But because of the saturated market, no-one needed to pay more or give an annual pay rise. So where did that money go for 8 yrs???   In the contractor's pocket. I didn't see any! And that annoys me. I blame Tony Blair for trying to get 50% of kids to go to Uni. You've got Russell Group Unis in Clearing, that should ring alarm bells! I've read on the student room site of people getting in with as low as CCD in the old 'polys' . They will struggle. And the calibre of those coming through and coming on placements.  No initiative, no common-sense, no can-do attitude, can't take the pace, absolutely horrified at what they are going to end up doing! And this is all before that useless FMD which will cause chaos so I'm praying for 'no-deal' and they turn the data base off!!! So, yes I tell them all to not do community, the degree is ok, it's interesting, but I tell them all, every single one of them " don't do this"  One lad told me he was always bored by half nine!! I would imagine the Unis are now painting a picture of, you can all work in a GP surgery! With closures and cuts, I can see people not getting pre-reg places, and pharmacist unemployment in the 2020s and some of the newer rubbish schools decreasing their intake or closing down.  In my day there was 70 of us per year, now in some places to get the 9k, it's 170 i've heard! And I think those 'up above' are trying to put road blocks up with this new Oriel system or whatevr it is called and making the exam harder and only passing three quarters of candidates. Luckily every pharmacy student we have had the last 5 years all want to do hospital, they see the chaos, they see the stress and they think, sod this! And I don't blame them. I always remind them they can do the pre-reg and then use it as a basic science degree and try to get into other things. One guy went into computer coding, another into retail training with Aldi! And he'll probably earn more money and no GPhC breathing down your neck and no CPD, what a waste of time all this new malarky is. 4 pieces of something worthwhile.  Then a chin-wag to write up, and a story to write about how i was so professional !!  Anyway, I blame the Unis, and Tony Blair. The 2020s are going to be very interesting and lots of change, probably a split between shops as a retail pharmacist on not much above minimum wage and dr's surgeries as 'clinical' pharmacists doing 'posh' MURs with the notes and blood tests and history, and being an IP, the ability to actually DO something for the patient. As well as sign all the repeats  and do all the hospital discharge patients and basically be a clerk so the Dr can see more patients. Good if you're not keen on patients, but you'll have to do extended training to be more hands on in a surgery, and actually get involved. For someone who works hard and is prepared to move to find work they will be OK I think, but we have many who live at home in a big city who don't or won't be allowed to move! They will struggle with finding work or it will be low rates due to the competition! Well, I think I've ranted enough.  Good luck everyone for the 2020s! And if you're under 35 and still have a bit of energy left to re-train, run away now!!!

 

Heather Pharm Tech, Allocation & Distribution

It's even more depressing to know that locum Pharm Techs can earn up to £16 an hour in some places...

Greatly Pedantic Highly Clueless, Senior Management

Excellent post Angela. I think it's healthcare in general that students should avoid. If you're bright study engineering or become a gas fitter/plasterer if you're more practical. No GPHC and £350 a day for skimming walls. 

I've recently seen two GPs in their late thirties give up due to stress. I think one ended up writing self help books! 

Charles Whitfield Bott, Pharmacist Director

We pay a much higher rate than that, and find it hard to get anyone to work.

Maybe there is an oportunity for some people to relocate to were there is a shortage of pharmacists

N O, Pharmaceutical Adviser

Absolutely. What can you expect from people who are crowded in one or two ares of the country and want jobs??

My advice is spread your wings move around there are lot of jobs with very good income/ rates and a healthy working environment. But, no they don't want to leave their comfort zones.

Angela, I am not sure where he is from but yes the South West is a beutiful place with dire need of more Pharmacists/ Locums.

Angela Channing, Community pharmacist

Charles, could you possibly tell us where you are?  SW? 

Clive Hodgson, Community pharmacist

Well said Angela.

Worth pointing out to pharmacy students is the fact that some (most?) Unis allow students to leave the course at the successful end of year 3 with a BSc. A good science degree will allow them to engage with more enlightened and promising career options rather than continue with pharmacy and then to spend the rest of their working lives regretting it.

Chemical Mistry, Information Technology

I am in similar position as yourself and enjoyed my career for 27years I now retrained as odd job gardener doing the basics for a loyal group of local pensioners and there gardens much more enjoyable and with endless cups of tea and biscuits and chinwag with what medication they are taking  you probably call it a MUR. Funnily the rates are not much different from locum rates.

Chris Locum, Locum pharmacist

If I salute you for anything, you decided to move on. It is something many would like to do here, but can't for financial reasons or just the fear of the unknown. I would also suspect downsizing in front of the neighbours would be a barrier for some.

However, from an objective standpoint community pharmacy has an uncertain future for many in the sector. The DOH see an Amazon-style of pharmacy, and savings will be clawed back as uncovenanted profit (outside agreed limits, but offered up as new resources).

Eventually, they will reach their target of removing what they perceive to be excess pharmacies. I am glad these students will not waste their time and resources on a career that I once so readily promoted in the past. However, pharmacists don't help themselves by putting up with these now potentially dangerous working conditions.

Lucky Ex-Locum, Superintendent Pharmacist

This post should be printed off and sent to (ideally stapled to the forehead of) every person responsible for the fiasco that community pharmacy has become over the last 12 years (2008 seems to have been the big nosedive year) because it perfectly sums up the sense of doom and helpless despair that I, and I'm sure an awful lot of others, feel about the future of this profession.

ABC DEF, Primary care pharmacist

Community sector is a total joke, chaos and shambles at the current state. So why would anyone with a right mind want to join it in the first place?  I said to a student a year ago back then - try your very best not to get into community! 

Chemical Mistry, Information Technology

What are these snowflakes complaining about ! they chose to do the pharmacy degree and its not like community pharmacy as gone down hill in the last few months its been like that for the last 10 years at least so if they did there research before enrolling on the degree course they would have not touched pharmacy with a barge pole!!!  I am joking you don't have to be youngster to suffer with the stress that community pharmacist are under at the moment. The real truth is that the mutiples see the pre-reg pharmacist as a extra pair hands and a cheap staffing and once qualified cheap fodder for relief pharmacist role or until they can replace the old timer pharmacist whose is put under such pressure that they have a breakdown or leave for them to take there place !!

Chris Locum, Locum pharmacist

I think they take the university spiel at face value - the literal truth. Pre-registration pharmacists are essentially free labour to the medium and large corporate pharmacy.

Joan Richardson, Locum pharmacist

I tell them to try to get into a hospital by any means possible.  At least there they will have the chance of decent career progression and some respect for the job that they do.

 

Ronald Trump, Pharmaceutical Adviser

Being a community pharmacist at the moment is rubbish if you work for certain multiples or struggling independents and in certain parts of the UK, but in other sectors being a pharmacist is actually very rewarding and quite exciting for the future. I wonder how community pharmacy will change in the next 10 years....

Lucky Ex-Locum, Superintendent Pharmacist

Can 'death' be regarded as a change, because that's the only one I can see coming.

Lucky Ex-Locum, Superintendent Pharmacist

In what way is this a bad thing? Our honesty is saving these students from a lifetime of misery (except I don't think pharmacy will be around long enough for todays students to even HAVE a lifetime of misery) and letting them find a career that they might actually enjoy. There is no pleasure left in being a pharmacist that hasn't been totally destroyed by the overwhelming negative aspects of the job. 

I do have to wonder quite why we should bend over backwards to accommodate students. Is the BPSA going to pay for the 'dedicated member of staff' or for the locum needed to allow the pharmacist to talk to the student? Thought not.......

Minhal Master, Community pharmacist

Its better they see the error of their ways in wanting to join this ever declining profession earlier on rather than realising it when its far too late! 

Adam Hall, Community pharmacist

I wonder if students expectations are mis-aligned with the reality. If they are expecting the pharmacist to be able to dedicate a lot of time to them, they need to understand that the prime importance is to operate the business - the student placement is a 'nice to have'

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