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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.

What do you make of proposals for a pharmacist apprenticeship scheme?

David Evans, Superintendent Pharmacist

They still have to do an accredited MPharm degree as it’s a GPhC requirement

Interleukin -2, Community pharmacist

They should then get to uni and do it like everyone else. What exactly is the problem being solved here ?

C A, Community pharmacist

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

The thin end of a wedge springs to mind...

N O, Pharmaceutical Adviser

 “the proposal for a pharmacist degree apprenticeship is only in the very explorative stage”

What next -- GP Apprenticeships, MP Apprenticeships, Prime Misnister Apprenticeship !!!!! Who ever thought this is possible needs to see a psychiatrist on an urgent basis.

Z Z, Pharmacy Asistant/ Medicine Counter Assistant

I think it's a good idea. The UK requires more apprenticeships at higher levels (this one is rather generously at level 7). 

The £3.90 per hour is not fortutely for all apprentices. It is for those in their first year and aged 18 or under. Above that minimum wage for appropriate age group applies.

I'm not sure where the PDA's view of deprofessionalisation comes from, since pharmacy was previously a Bachelor's degree and before that not even a degree and many members of the public incorrectly believe it to be a profession where you can train up in this way already.

janet revers, Community pharmacist

Yes Exactly, Pharmacy was a diploma , then a degree then a Masters degree so why do we now want to go backwards

Maya Parhar, Locum pharmacist

To be honest I don’t understand how it would benefit people like you. These apprentices will essentially be cheap labour dispensers, putting other dispensers and medicine counter staff out of work. Because after all, would you rather pay £3.90 and above to a student for five years, or a dispenser/ medicine counter staff? And if they introduced it they would have to give priority to the pharmacy students. So for that I say good luck to you.  

Thomas Wilde, Community pharmacist

The public not knowing it requires a degree has no bearing on the fact it does. This idea is stupid, theres a reason that ACT's and Pharmacists aren't the same thing its the indepth theory that you learn at uni. This just highlights that groups like the RPS and GPHC need to educate the public on the knowledge base pharmacists have. 

Z Z, Pharmacy Asistant/ Medicine Counter Assistant

And which fact is that? Deprofessionalisation is an opinion, not a fact. If you are going to use the f word, have the courtsey and intellectual honesty to use it properly.

Any reasons why you think it is a stupid idea?

Thomas Wilde, Community pharmacist

The fact would be the one where Pharmacists have to have an MPharm degree to practise as Pharmacists. 

Z Z, Pharmacy Asistant/ Medicine Counter Assistant

Professions are regulated through bodies that have certain backing in law. The degree is the decision of the regulator, it can specify whatever it wants and additional conditions on top (it does). Some specify vocational qualifications, some specify professional qualifications, others undergraduate degrees followed by a route to being chartered.  

I know what an MPharm degree is, cheers. That one won't work on me. Ooh cower before me, I have a degree. It's an undergraduate degree. Well cheers I've got degrees myself which ain't particularly unusual for pharmacy staff. There's no need to be derogatory to other people about support staff. 

If you want pharmacy to stay exclusive and maintain high wages then that's fine, just be upfront about it and elaborate. Otherwise people might misinterpret this as thinking of a return to the good old days where there were 11 pharmacy schools, dominated by white people, men and no EU nationals.  

The irony of a pharmacist in a vocational 'profession' arguing against rigorous vocational qualifications.

Karen Jardine, Student

even if we do thats not wrong as we worked really hard for it, i think you want employer to buy yachets instead

Thomas Wilde, Community pharmacist

The thing that you are clearly not understanding is that the degree teaches pharmaceutical knowledge to a greater depth and this means that Pharmacists have an expert knowledge in exactly how a medication works or how it reacts with other medication and can explain how amongst a great many other things. Students can't have that knowledge unless its taught to you.

I've not said anything derogatory about support staff so please have the courtesy and intellectual honesty not to make up things. Also I've not advocated that there should be fewer pharmacy schools or that they should be racist again please don't make up arguments it just shows poor understanding.

C A, Community pharmacist

"please don't make up arguments it just shows poor understanding."

Some might say that it shows a lack of a degree teaching critical thinking, analysis, evaluation, interpretation, numeracy, time keeping, written presentation, and a bunch of other skills, but that is clearly not the case here.

David Evans, Superintendent Pharmacist

but they will still be required to have one? and complete the pre-reg year, and pass the exam. That is what the GPhC require to register, this proposal doesnt change that?

C A, Community pharmacist

"This proposal doesnt change that yet"


You missed a key word there sport.

David Evans, Superintendent Pharmacist

It doesnt mean student will not have to complete an accredited MPharm degree, they will. Its all about funding. There is also a proposed apprentice route for opticians.

Jenny P, Hospital pharmacist

It's for dispensing opticians (a two year non-degree course plus pre-reg year), not for optometrists (a three year degree course plus pre-reg year). If they can't create optometrists via an apprenticeship, why can they create pharmacists?

Thomas Wilde, Community pharmacist

And if they had a proposed apprenticeship for a cardiac surgeon that would also be a stupid idea. Arguing that they have ideas to do this to other professions isn't a very good one. 

David Evans, Superintendent Pharmacist

why is it such a bad idea?

Keith Howell, Primary care pharmacist

We are fortunate enough in this country that any young person can study pharmacy at university if they put their mind to it..There is no need for an apprenticeship scheme. Neither is there a demand for pharmacists.

We can all see this for what it is, a cost saving scheme for multiples- unsurprising led by their superintendents. Shame on you for trashing your own profession.

Keith Howell, Primary care pharmacist

See my reply below for just 2 reasons...

Karen Jardine, Student

are you statisfed with technician courses and eductaion  they are approved by GPHC?

Thomas Wilde, Community pharmacist

Because the depth of knowledge needs to be learnt in a lecture hall taught by professors who are experts in their subjects. The idea that you can genuinely have the same expertise from an apprenticeship is fundamentally wrong as you aren't learning to the same level. If you work in healthcare and you are responsible for patients lives you need to have the highest level of training and knowledge. To try and sneak around that is selfish, reckless and dangerous to patients. Which is why the GPHC and PDA are saying they aren't backing this. 

David Evans, Superintendent Pharmacist

The GPhC have pointed out that students will still need to complete an accredited MPharm degree, complete the required pre-reg training, and pass the pre-reg exam, and the document implictly says that the apprenticeship framework will follow the requirements of the GPhC, I dont see the problem here? The fact that students might also be employed durring their studies is clearly a bonus for them. Read the IET document the GPhC recently consulted on and published. There isnt a great deal of difference IMO.

Benie I, Locum pharmacist

You're rather slow if you think the GPhC won't lower the standard of the pre-reg exam to help their friends at the multiples. 

**this has happened already by the way

N O, Pharmaceutical Adviser

"""The GPhC have pointed out that students will still need to complete an accredited MPharm degree, complete the required pre-reg training, and pass the pre-reg exam,"""

Then, why do you need an apprenticeship?? This itself qualifies them to be Pharmacists in the same way as others at the moment, don't you think?? OR you are suggesting that the Pre-Reg year be changed to apprenticeship so that the Big Chains can then hire them at peanuts compared to bigger peanuts they get now + the comfort of some actual training as set out by the GPhC ??? Anyway, either you are confused with consultation or just making some asumptions, all the best.

David Evans, Superintendent Pharmacist

I can assure you Im not confused at all. Its all about funding and tuition fees, and in some areas recruitment.

Its the whole undergraduate programme that can be dropped into the apprenticeship structure as a 5yr integrated degree. Tuition fees paid for in part, and salary for the student until they graduate and register.

Keith Howell, Primary care pharmacist

There are so many reasons why this is all so wrong it's difficult to know where to begin. But consider just 2 points:

1) Why would a pharmacist who has likely got into a huge amount of debt to obtain a Masters in Pharmacy feel happy about somebody else avoiding most of those fees, getting paid for the privilege and still being able to call themselves a pharmacist at the end of it?

2) Given the choice, who would then choose the expensive, unpaid pathway? Going forwards, every
would-be pharmacist takes the apprenticeship route. A profession built on apprenticeships. Do you now see how it devalues our profession?

Thomas Wilde, Community pharmacist

So they would need to somehow fit 4 years worth of lectures in and work how many hours a week? From where would the degree be acquired?  I just don't see how you can give the right level of training that would allow the students to learn all they needed to to pass exams with and be working the hours in the pharmacy. I remember that its a difficult time and its expensive with little time to earn money I like most people on my course worked over summer and christmas so I get why it might sound appealing. It's just not feasible IMO


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