In the next few weeks, pre-registration employers across the community pharmacy and hospital sector will find out the outcome of the 2020 Oriel recruitment process. Many will be disappointed – but is this the fault of the process, or has it just become a convenient scapegoat?
The first thing to note is that Oriel has never guaranteed pre-reg recruitment. As in previous years, there are currently more pharmacies recruiting via Oriel than there are students to fill the places.
Health Education England (HEE) data for the 2020 intake – based on figures from 2019 – shows that there are 3,189 hospital and community pharmacies attempting to recruit 2,084 candidates, which means there are over 1,100 pharmacies we know won’t receive a trainee via Oriel.
As highlighted by the table below, the majority of training places for the 2020 intake (2,369) are within community pharmacy.
Then there are the numerous community pharmacy employers who will be recruiting directly, outside Oriel. Even if you factor in the roughly 800 students attempting to secure a place directly, the numbers make it impossible for everyone to recruit successfully.
Ultimately it’s the students who decide where they apply, with their offers depending on how they performed in the exams. There is no conspiracy or undue influence from the hospital sector, large multiples or HEE, who coordinates Oriel.
The table below shows the 2018 fill rate for community pharmacy, broken down by employer size and demonstrating how independent and smaller pharmacies perform in comparison with the large multiples (200+ branches) and the medium-sized chains (25-200 branches).
So what’s changed since the advent of Oriel? Well, essentially nothing. Hospitals and large pharmacy chains are still the most popular with students. Location is also important to most students, as are long-term career prospects and the training offered. Recruiting pre-regs to community pharmacy was already becoming progressively more difficult in the years leading up to the launch of Oriel in 2014. All Oriel has done is highlight this trend and translate it into cold hard numbers.
Unfortunately, community pharmacy has an image problem. Firstly, there are the brutal and well-publicised funding cuts imposed on the sector. Secondly, there are a small number of employers who tarnish the sector through the mistreatment and neglect of pre-regs. This rogue minority detracts from the exceptional community training sites we know exist, and who are worthy of being celebrated.
The good news is that the existence of these exceptional community pharmacy training providers is widely acknowledged within HEE. And if the organisation worked with community stakeholders such as pharmacy schools, the General Pharmaceutical Council and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, it could perhaps develop a “kitemarking” standard for training providers. This could help guide students towards quality-assured sites and away from unscrupulous employers.
Oriel isn’t a perfect recruitment tool, but nothing is. One of the drivers behind the launch of Oriel were reports of questionable recruitment practises that unfairly discriminated against certain students. Oriel gives students a more level playing field to compete for popular training sites. A fairer and more inclusive recruitment process is something I’m sure we can all get behind.
Khalid Khan is head of training at Imaan Healthcare