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Pharmacist apprenticeships under consideration in 10-day consultation

The consultation response document asks seven questions
The consultation response document asks seven questions

Pharmacists could qualify through a five-year apprenticeship scheme led by employers, according to proposals set out in a consultation which closes on Sunday (April 14).

The Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education – an employer-led public body not affiliated with a government department – launched the 10-day consultation, which runs until Sunday (April 14).

Pharmacists would train as apprentices on placements hosted by pharmacy companies.

The proposal was developed following discussions “with a range of employers”, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) and universities, the institute claimed.

However, the GPhC said its involvement was limited. “We have not contributed to drafting these proposals. We have attended two meetings to explain regulatory requirements in our role as the pharmacy regulator,” it told C+D today.

The consultation is at the first of three stages with the aim of finding out if industry professionals support it.

The consultation response document says it should take “no more than 10 minutes to complete”. It asks seven questions including “do you support the development of the apprenticeship standard set out in the proposal?” and “do you recognise this occupation?”.

“Pharmacists are experts in medicines and therapeutical management and ongoing care, they are not required to diagnose and manage medical care, they will also provide advice to patients on medicines management,” the institute said in the consultation document.

What are apprenticeships?

The institute defines apprentices as “a job with training to industry standards”.

They are “employer-led: employers set the standards, create the demand for apprentices to meet their skill needs, fund the apprenticeship and are responsible for employing and training the apprentice”.

Apprentices need “to achieve competence in a skilled occupation, which is transferable and secures long-term earnings power, greater security and the capability to progress in the workplace”.

Apprentice standards

A “trailblazer group” of employers who are reflective of a sector form the standards of apprenticeships, the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education said in a general definition.

To become a trailblazer group employers need to submit a proposal to the institute.

The standards would be “based upon occupational standards”, it said.

“An occupational standard is a short and concise document that describes what someone who is competent in the occupation does – ‘duties’, and the ‘knowledge, skills and behaviours’ required to carry out the duties competently; along with any qualifications that must be taken and alignment with professional recognition if applicable,” the institute continued.

Assessment of apprentices

Apprentices have to take an “independent assessment” at the end of their training to “confirm that they have achieved occupational competence”.

The trailblazer group would develop the assessment “to test competence against your occupational standard”.

The GPhC said: “Any course would need to meet our standards and would need to be accredited by us, and any trainees would need to pass our registration assessment before coming on to the register.”

It is currently unclear how pharmacy apprenticeships will work with pharmacy degrees.

PDA: Reject these surprise proposals

The Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) urged pharmacists to respond to the “surprise” proposals, as a pharmacist apprenticeship would lead to a “reduction in standards and deprofessionalisation”, it claimed.

“The profession has not been widely engaged or consulted as to whether it wants an apprenticeship to be introduced. On that basis alone it should not proceed,” the PDA stressed.

Some CCA members involved in proposals

The Company Chemists’ Association (CCA) said some of its members are part of the Pharmacy Apprenticeship Trailblazer Group behind the proposals, though the organisation is not directly. It represents Boots, Lloydspharmacy, Well, Rowlands and Superdrug, as well as the pharmacy arms of Morrisons, Tesco and Asda.

The trailblazer group involves other pharmacy employers who are not CCA members, as well as “hospital employers and pharmaceutical employers”, it said.

The group has been developing apprenticeship standards for pharmacy assistants and pharmacy technicians “for some time”.

But “the proposal for a pharmacist degree apprenticeship is only in the very explorative stage”, the CCA stressed.

RPS: Degree apprenticeships successful elsewhere

The RPS said it has not contributed to trailblazer “up to now”.

“We were notified by the trailblazer group that they were exploring this recently,” it said.

“We will work with our members on whether [apprenticeships] are suitable as a route to registration as a pharmacist.

“The RPS will be feeding in our views at the appropriate time to make sure the profession's voice is heard.”

The RPS is looking for views from the profession on apprenticeships via email.

“The degree apprenticeship approach is also being taken by other healthcare professions and has been successful in areas such as engineering in improving the number of people able to access the degree.”

Read the full consultation and respond here.

Read more about the proposals from an apprenticeship expert.

114 Comments
Question: 
What do you make of proposals for a pharmacist apprenticeship scheme?

Greg Lawton, Community pharmacist

The definition of an apprentice:

“someone who has agreed to work for a skilled person for a particular period of time and often for low payment, in order to learn that person's skills” (Cambridge English Dictionary)

A person who is learning a trade from a skilled employer, having agreed to work for a fixed period at low wages.” (Oxford English Dictionary)

Not exactly aspirational for the profession.

 

 

Brian Smith, Pharmacy technician

As someone who regularly works with and helps pre-reg pharmacy students every year for the last 15 years i can tell you that there appears to be a gradual change in the quality and knowledge base of pre-reg’s. I recently had three students none of whom knew about CD’s, how to make up and measure liquids, correct disposal of meds or expiry dates. It seems as though the “art of pharmacy” is being lost anyway. 

H Saw, Community pharmacist

Although they should have covered that in university in dispensing module, the examples you gave are quite superficial - practical stuff that one can simply being told and knew. I guess your students probably don't have much experience in community setting but then that's what pre-reg for - learn to apply their knowledge in real world. This doesn't tell us about their knowledge base. Before the electronic prescribing, we still see doctor missing certain requirements on CD prescription, but that doesn't tell us any less of his qualification. Anyway I am just commenting on your examples. You might be correct about the overall quality of graduate. Well I can only see it get worse with apprenticeship.

Benie I, Locum pharmacist

I wonder if people realise how this works. The outcome of this is already decided and this nonsense will be implemented at a time of their choosing. The consultation is meaningless and is purely a charade so it seems as if they're interested in professional opinion. 

As always it is only about the money and nothing to do with patients etc.... With conflicts of interest being rife and often undeclared it would be interesting to know where the C&D editorial team stand on this matter?

Benie I, Locum pharmacist

I wonder what the editorial view on this is ?

R A, Community pharmacist

I think this shows the stark reality of how low this profession has sunk! Multiples are in a position where they can dictate the training structure for a pharmacist when it really should be decided by the regulator! After all, I thought the regulator job is to safeguard the public and maintain the professional standard of the pharmacy profession! Clearly, something must have changed somewhere. Also if it is acceptable to pay a trainee £3.4 per hour when ten years ago it was £8.40 per hour then naturally paying a qualified pharmacist the minimum wage is the next step. 

Note to most sane people here jump off this sinking boat! Things are going to turn real ugly soon!

Lucky Ex-Boots Slave, Primary care pharmacist

*This comment has been removed for breaching C+D's community principles*

Benie I, Locum pharmacist

Removed your comment ! I wonder why...

Ronald Trump, Pharmaceutical Adviser

Bribery, quite a claim!

R A, Community pharmacist

I think we have a situation which will escalate into the complete collapse of the traditional model of community pharmacy. 

In some way, this should be counted as a blessing! If I was confronted by this set up when I entertained the notions of becoming a pharmacist (how stupid of me!) I would have slapped myself and drank strong coffee to remind myself its a complete con. Prospective entrants can vote with their feet and not pursue this profession. 

Another thing to bear in mind is the role of a community pharmacist is evaporating, so whatever role is left is likely to be fulfilled by the ACT perhaps that's why the multiples are entertaining this sub-standard training scheme!

I think the only two fields left will be Hospital Pharmacy and Primary Care Pharmacy. I think both of these areas will demand the traditional route so there is some hope that some form of pharmacy will remain including the original education system. Although it will probably lead to reversion in the number of pharmacy schools to what it was at the beginning of 2000. 

Hospital Pharmacist, Hospital pharmacist

Hi,  trained in Scotland, (community pre reg) and then went into hospital.

 

I have a few queries regarding how this funding option makes it better for anyone in Scotland given we have no uni fees. If I studied in Scotland and didn’t pay fees and worked 12 hours a week in a pharmacy as a part time job (which is very common)  I would earn roughly £100 a week  (£7.80/hr) and I could also then work in the summer etc. If I was to go the apprenticeship route I would be working what one can assume around 30 hours a week at ?£3.80/hr making for the same roughly £100-£110? 

 

Having myself completed a pre registration with a large multiple whereby the nhs funds the pre reg I have to say you are just an extra body on the floor. You legally are allowed to dispense and therefore you help fill the gaps in staffing. I have worked in pharmacies since I was 15 and I have no doubt the experience of working a Saturday and summers has helped me and made my first year as a pharmacist much easier.  I have concerns that the pre registration training in the big multiples already focuses heavily on business and money and putting pressure on pre regs to get certain figures to feed back at study days to prove they are a good pharmacist making money so that they will get a job at the end of the pre reg. Business and making money is nowhere in the curriculum from what I can see. Furthermore I as a pharmacy student never had any trouble finding a part time job in a pharmacy due to the legal loophole that you could work in the dispensary and they didn’t have to train you since you are already in training. Given that there are apparently staffing issues I would then also assume that pharmacy students currently aren’t struggling to find employment in the holidays either.This whole idea screams to me that the multiples want to make money on this since they will get paid for the students training, benefit by having an extra set of hands and then pay the student below what they would earn as a part time job? I can only see a benefit to the employer and not the employee? The Summer placement programmes still exist so I am confused why this other option is required if not for cheaper labour and to have a hold over the student. Perhaps the government should just fund pharmacy degree tuition partially for students if they are so concerned about Pharmacist numbers (like they have for nurses at university whereby they get fees paid and a bursary?)and then they can decide how and when and for who they work whilst studying? It begs the question also - what university would adapt a course for this apprenticeship timetable and what would be in it for them? 

 

-La

 

Leon The Apothecary, Student

Considering the current political climate, the whole structure of how Scotland and the United Kingdom will operate in the future is entirely up for debate.

Ronald Trump, Pharmaceutical Adviser

The main benefits seem to be for the community pharmacy multiples, in terms of  producing cheap labour that can fill the recruitment gap.  With an apprenticeship model, there is a real risk that students may not gain the breadth and depth of knowledge required to be a competent, adaptable pharmacist. They may not get the volume of dedicated, rigorous academic teaching of the science that underpins practice. In any healthcare profession, it is not just about being trained in skills and actions, it is about having the background scientific reasoning that you can use to make complex decisions that govern patient care. An apprenticeship will probably narrow the kill set and knowledge a pharmacist has and this will make them less proficient in professional skills such as critical analysis and abstract reasoning. This reduction in knowledge and skills could affect patient safety and turn pharmacists into one-trip ponies. The beauty of a pharmacy degree is that it offers the felxibility for graduates to head in different directions upon graduation.

Yes you could argue that apprentices would be coming out with the same degree qualification that meets the same standards. But I would argue that these pharmacists would be of a dangerously inferior quality, at the risk of patient safety.

Also, I think the traditional connotations that come with an apprenticeship (as a workman-ship less academic model), and the potential negative public perception, will devalue the profession at a time when I think we should be raising it.

I think new and efficient funding models are welcomed, but an apprenticeship route is definitely not the right answer. 

anti-depressed Pharmacist, Manager

Just a way for the large multiples to flood the market with U grade GCSE/A level Pharmacists paid on minimum wage.

David Evans, Superintendent Pharmacist

The current GPhC position for pharmacist registration is below. So unless  GPhC change their policy (unlikely) then all prospective pharmacists will have to complete the current pathways and obtain and MPharm degree, complete 52 weeks of training in practice and pass the registration exam. This is all about funding, nothing to do with devaluing the profession.

For students studying in Great Britain, there are three routes to registration3,4 as a pharmacist, either
• a four-year MPharm degree (part of which may be studied overseas); then
• 52 weeks of pre-registration training; and
• our Registration Assessment (an examination).
Normally, this route to registration must be completed in eight years.
Or
• a two-year part-time foundation degree in pharmacy5 (comprising year 1 of an MPharm degree plus work experience and study skills); then
• years 2 to 4 of an MPharm degree; then
• 52 weeks of pre-registration training; and
• our Registration Assessment (an examination).
Normally, this route to registration must be completed in nine years.
Or
• a five-year MPharm degree, including intercalated blocks of pre- registration training equalling 52 weeks; and
• our Registration Assessment (an examination).
Normally, this route to registration must be completed in eight years.

 

Keith Howell, Primary care pharmacist

Superintendents here unsurprisingly defending this scheme. Shame on you.

I don't buy into the view that some can't afford/access university. I grew up in a 2 bedroom council flat living with my dad who earned minimal wage. I took out a student loan and worked part-time to survive university. I finally finished paying back my student loan last year. I'm sure many have similar stories. Since Tony Blair's labour government the UK has sought to give every young person the opportunity to attend university. Whereas most other developed countries, particularly those in the EU, only offer university places to a minority of top students. In my view, there are excellent opportunities for all to study pharmacy at university. I cannot see how an apprenticeship scheme would benefit anyone apart from employers to drive down costs. I certainly worry that it would undermine the reputation of pharmacists at a time when we need to demonstrate that we are valuable members of the healthcare team.

Furthermore, as highlighted by the PDA, there are lots of inaccuracies reported in the proposal about what pharmacists can and cannot do. All pharmacists are trained to diagnose. This scheme belittles and devalues our profession. RPS now is the time to firmly reject this proposal in the strongest possible terms as the PDA have done. Time to show you are the leadership body for pharmacists

tanveer ahmed, Pre-reg Pharmacist

i agree but question remains ther how it will benefit professional as with technician do they have sefficient knowledge?

 

Brian Smith, Pharmacy technician

Can you explain further what your comment is about??

David Evans, Superintendent Pharmacist

Can I encourage everyone to look at this with an open mind. It’s not about devaluing the profession, all apprentices will have to complete an accredited MPharm degree and all the current GPhC requirements. How they do this is the debate, not the course content, that will not change. There are major benefits for employers and pharmacy undergraduates, but it will not be the route for all.

 

Interleukin -2, Community pharmacist

Your insistence on  pushing forward such a nauseating idea on the basis that its all about funding is quite depressing and worrying. You have to admit that you just dont get it. Sometimes in life one plus one isnt always two. Pharmacy is a proffesion not a craft. Grasping this simple distinction.. is the point all your colleagues in all 118 posts are trying to make. That I know to flag up for example to a consultant that Mrs D cannot be prescribed so and so diurectic because she has a sulfa allergy requires that I  not only know the basic pharmacophores of both drug classes but also how they affect living systems amongst a myriad other things ....am too weary to make this point but how on earth do you teach that to an apprentice ? That was just an example btw

tanveer ahmed, Pre-reg Pharmacist

hi explain me how it is beneficial for students and current pharmacist i will read with open mind

 

David Evans, Superintendent Pharmacist

Funding, read the thread

John Boey, Community pharmacist

When I think of apprenticeships, I think of grooming a successor, especially if the employer controls most of his apprentice's education. At best, you may develop a one-trick pony great at only his sector of apprenticeship. 

 

But what is disturbing is, why is there a need for a third path to pharmacy qualification? Are pre-reg and OSPAP not producing the numbers needed to fill in vacancies? Are employers not getting enough return of investments from their pre-regs? Or is this a similar strategy of flooding the market in anticipation of massive burnouts like those seen among GPs?

 

Either way, having more hands into the shrinking wallet of the pharmacy pot in the next 10 years is a grim prospect.

David Evans, Superintendent Pharmacist

It’s not a third path, it’s about the funding. Please read the thread and approach it with an open mind. Don’t get hung up on the old Apprenticeship terminology.

Interleukin -2, Community pharmacist

If I was for example the superintendent and co-owner of say a small chain of twelve pharmacies, my greed might overwhelm my sense of reason and persuade me to see how much id save if I didnt have to pay all these wages to pharmacists. Id personally push these proposals with impish glee

C A, Community pharmacist

From the article

1) "It is currently unclear how pharmacy apprenticeships will work with pharmacy degrees."

2) “The degree apprenticeship approach is also being taken by other healthcare professions and has been successful in areas such as engineering in improving the number of people able to access the degree.”

There are plenty of undergraduate pharmacy students, in fact many say that Schools of Pharmacy are overproducing students.

Cod Fillet, Community pharmacist

Insanity! A degree involves some much more than the community pharmacy reality. With ore-ref students often treated as cheap labor by multiple pharmacies I can the very little study time these apprenticeships would get.

David Evans, Superintendent Pharmacist

Please read the thread

Benie I, Locum pharmacist

*This comment has been removed for breaching C+D's community principles*

 

Arvind Sami, Locum pharmacist

I remeber reading that a bachelors degree can demonstrate and find evidence, a masters to evaluate and a doctorate to generate. As medication becomes more complex and so the treatment paths, I'm not wholly convinced an apprenticeship, which traditionally is a more vocational, really puts the necessary emphasis on this?

One of the major benefits of the pharmacy degree is the versatility that comes with it. We see pharmacists specialising in many different areas in industry, community, hospital etc. I feel an apprenticeship may not be able to provide this. Would someone who completed an apprenticeship in a community, be suitable for a hospital? Or industry?

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