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Regulator’s new guidelines for pre-reg tutors split profession

Professional Pharmacists welcome principles but some fear there is little incentive to comply

Pharmacists and student leaders are divided on whether new guidance for pre-registration tutors will address variations in quality, C+D has learned.

Pharmacists broadly welcomed the principles of the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) guidance, released last week, which advises tutors to induct pre-reg pharmacists on an agreed training plan and give them "regular constructive feedback".

But they were split over whether the guidance would put a stop to poor quality placements without being enforced. C+D readers also appeared undecided, as only 47 per cent of 36 respondents to an online poll believed it would make a difference.

GPhC chief executive Duncan Rudkin said the guidance should "promote improvements in tutoring" and help trainees to reach their potential.

Pharmacist Raj Jain expects the GPhC guidelines to improve tutoring standards

More about pre-registration training

GPhC launches new guidance for pre-reg training

Quality control of pre-reg tutors needed, pharmacists say

GPhC to survey pharmacists about pre-reg training

But James Bryce, Numark pre-reg tutor of the year and a pharmacy owner in Kent, branded the guidance a "waste of professional time". He argued there was little incentive for sub-standard tutors to follow the recommendations. "There are no consequences so, really, all they're doing is setting out recommendations that are self-evident," he told C+D.

An anonymous pharmacist who had suffered a poor placement also voiced little faith in the guidelines. Tutors could still get away with failing "basic requirements" of the placement and recommendations such as "regular feedback" were open to their interpretation, he argued.

Mike Hewitson, a pre-reg tutor and owner of Beaminster Pharmacy, Dorset, said some tutors would continue to view trainees as simply a "spare pair of hands" – partly due to the lack of funding available. "The grant is fine but that largely gets swallowed up by the [pre-reg's] salary and there's no reflection of the trainer having to invest a lot of time in developing that individual," he stressed.


Pre-reg training concerns: the story so far

November 2011 GPhC sets out plans to assess pre-reg training

August 2013 C+D finds pre-regs are being asked to conduct unsupervised MURs

October 2013 Student leaders call for greater quality control amid reports of "traumatising" placements

November 2013 GPhC surveys pharmacists on training standards

January 2014 GPhC launches new guidance for pre-reg training

But others believed the guidelines would help point tutors in the right direction. The British Pharmaceutical Students' Association (BPSA), which worked with the GPhC to develop the guidance, said it would "enable consistency in the relationship between tutee and tutor".

This consistency would be further strengthened if the GPhC appointed independent assessors to give the final sign-off on placements, it added.

Locum Voice founder Lindsey Gilpin said, although the guidance was unlikely to produce a "miraculous" effect, it was helpful to establish an agreed standard. "The pre-reg can use it just to bring to the trainer's attention what they should be doing," she told C+D.

Raj Jain, pharmacist at WR Evans (Chemist) Ltd t/a Manor Pharmacy, said many tutors would welcome extra guidance in their role. "I think it should improve standards," he argued.

"It's not guidance that should be ignored," he added. "If you're going to be training the future of the pharmacy profession, you should be in the right frame of mind professionally and personally."

In October, C+D reported that some trainees were failing placements due to substandard training, which had involved tutors only giving feedback by email or even refusing to mark work.

The GPhC established the guidelines after consulting an expert working group and focus groups involving pre-registration pharmacists and trainee technicians last year. The regulator is due to send the guidance to all tutors, pharmacy owners and superintendents over the coming weeks.

The guidance for pre-reg tutors Tutors should start by identifying their trainee's development needs and devising a training programme, which should be agreed by both parties They should give trainees a "range of opportunities" to demonstrate their competence and set realistic goals Trainees should expect "regular constructive feedback" based on evidence and be able to discuss this with their tutor Tutors should act on any concerns raised by the trainee, either by discussing the issue, informing management or, in serious cases, raising it with the regulator Trainee technicians should have a dedicated supervisor

Do you think the new guidelines go far enough?

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Pharmacist Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

Tutors are not supported by multiples and pre regs are looked upon as dispensers and potential managers, not pharmacists. I once heard that an area manager said in an interview that he was looking for good managers, not pharmacists. What does that say about our profession?

Pharmacists are recruited by non pharmacist area managers or someone from HR. What does that say about our profession???

Farmer Cyst, Community pharmacist

You have fairly weak, vague guidelines with practically no punishment for breaking them versus a huge financial incentive to take on 'a spare pair of hands'.

It's no surprise that Pharmacy businesses see recruiting a pre-reg as a must, and why many tutors are often given no say in whether or not they take on a pupil, let alone any say in their recruitment. When I was back at university there was a strong emphasis placed by the institution on getting a pre-reg place with a large multiple as this was implied to be a 'safer bet'. However despite the high quality of Boots and Lloyds internal training I know of many horror stories where disinterested tutors at multiples jeopardized the career of many a young pharmacist.

I think this 'blind spot' in Pharmacy training is seriously detrimental to the overall image of the profession, as the pre-reg exam can only test core clinical knowledge and many trainees are left lacking the myriad of other skills required to be a competent pharmacists thereafter. It's also an area where Pharmacy seriously lags behind other healthcare professions.

P.S - I did my pre-reg at an independent and received a level of training and support that was second to none. My tutor was excellent and I know I owe an awful lot of the Pharmacist I am to his careful guidance. So to anyone out there reading this that is unsure about taking a pre-reg at an independent I say go for it! Check them out at the interview as much as they are checking you out and if you're happy go for it!

Clive Hodgson, Community pharmacist

Just to add to Pharma Cysts excellent comments.

I do think that many of the problems are a result of pre-regs being forced by the Multiples onto reluctant tutor Pharmacists. These tutors are probably already working flat out and if no extra resources (time/money) are allocated then it is not hard to see why the quality of the pre-reg year suffers.

Dorothy Drury, Locum pharmacist

I do think the pre-reg year should be a practical year after the 4 academic years of study. This is possibly more difficult as students are concentrating on yet another exam instead of putting into practice "being a pharmacist"

Clinical Pharmacist, Hospital pharmacist

This is all common sense recommendations, what needs monitoring is the quality of the training place

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