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Are apprenticeships just a ploy to hire pharmacists on the cheap?

By Dr Livingstone
GP blogger

23 Apr 2019

Well, that’s a bit ironic, isn’t it?

One minute you pharmacists were being bigged up through subsidised job offers in those brave new primary care networks, or, at the very least, invited to be honorary members of the network club. And the next, you’re having your professional status undermined by plans to introduce the pharmacist qualification by apprenticeship.

A trailblazer group, including some of the big high street names in pharmacy, has launched the proposal, which would involve on-the-job training over five years rather than a university degree.

Predictably, the main protagonists emphasise that the idea is very much at the embryonic stage and suggest it’s a response to a recent decline in university applications rather than (and I’m wildly guessing here) getting pharmacists on the cheap. Equally predictably, the reaction from regulatory and educational bodies has been distinctly cool.

And it doesn’t take much imagination to work out how you pharmacists must feel about the scheme. The idea that pharmacy is a trade that can be picked up passively rather than a serious vocation requiring years of study and application is pretty insulting. Also, it re-opens that old argument about whether pharmacy is actually more aligned to shop-keeping than science – a debate you’d be forgiven for thinking is dead and buried.

I certainly feel your pain. After all, I’ve seen the same group of youths hanging around our health centre for at least five years now. So if the trailblazer’s plans are anything to go by, they’re virtually qualified GPs by now. And if any GP workforce planners are reading, yes, that was a joke. I’ll direct them to the pharmacy down the road.

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