Independent community pharmacy is the least desirable destination for pharmacy students to undertake early career training because of perceptions on the quality of training it offers, according to a recent study. 

The study published yesterday (February 26), in The International Journal of Practice Pharmacy, analysed data from 2,694 applications from the national pre-registration pharmacist recruitment scheme, and surveyed over 300 students to determine how pharmacy students selected their pre-registration training providers.  

Only 16% of students ranked community pharmacy as their first choice for their year-long pre-registration training, the rest opting for secondary care. Of those who chose community pharmacy, the majority preferred to be in the chain pharmacies, the study revealed.

Beliefs about community pharmacy

Students' tendency to stay away from smaller independent community pharmacy was because many believed they would receive a higher quality of training programmes in hospitals and large chain pharmacies.   

Most participants aspired to become 'hospital' pharmacists and therefore saw the training in secondary care as a necessary 'stepping stone' to fulfilling this aim, the researchers said.  

This is despite a census conducted by the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) showed that the majority of the pharmacy workforce (71%) reside in community pharmacy, leaving a much smaller fraction working in hospitals (21%), the researchers added.

One survey participant said: ‘I am lucky I got my preferred hospital, but I would have been extremely dissatisfied if I ended up with community [pharmacy], that was never my wish.’

Another factor which influenced where students chose to study was the geographical location of the programme. The majority of students preferred to work in urban areas - most choosing at least one London based programme. However, some students were willing to sacrifice their geographical preferring for a higher ranking programme.

Community pharmacy could be seen as a ‘leftover’ opportunity

Authors of the study recommended that clinical roles and career opportunities in community pharmacy be promoted more to create more of a demand, as currently there is a risk that community pharmacy could be seen as a ‘leftover’ opportunity for the less successful and competitive students. 

In June, candidates who sat June’s pre-registration exam said they felt the assessment was skewed towards hospital pharmacy. Whilst minutes from the GPhC meeting in September discussed how lower pass rate for community placements was linked to ‘quality’ of pre-reg tuition