Proposals to introduce a five-year pharmacy apprenticeship scheme, where prospective pharmacists could train on the job instead of at universities, have been met with criticism from the sector.
The proposals were heavily criticised by pharmacists on social media, with many pointing out that the current education model already requires five years of study, albeit in university and pre-registration placement settings.
Please respond to this absurd consultation proposing Pharmacist Apprentices. I’m proud to be a pharmacist and part of that is pride in studying for an MPharm and getting through that prereg exam which is no walk in the park . *Puts out of office sign back up*
— Pharmacist Thorrun (@pharmthorrun) 12 April 2019
I’m sorry but your can’t just fast track yourself via an Apprenticeship into a Pharmacist. You would never do the same to a Doctor so why do it to us? We are clinical too. We matter too. Please show a little respect ✌🏽#weph #pharmacyproblems
— Bhavisha Patel (@_bhavishap) 11 April 2019
Light on details
There is currently limited detail on the proposals, but according to the IATE they have been developed with ‘a range of employers’, higher education organisations and ‘the professional body’.
IATE told The Pharmacist that the plans are backed by ‘major organisations across the sector’ as well as NHS Trusts, although it did not specify which groups were involved.
The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) denied that it had been involved in submitting the proposals, which it said had been done by a ‘group of pharmacy employers’ known as the pharmacy degree apprenticeship trailblazer. It is as yet unclear which pharmacies are part of this group.
The RPS said it had only been notified of the plans – which it said are at the ‘first stages’ – by the trailblazer recently and is seeking views from the profession on pharmacy apprenticeships. Those interested in sharing their views should email firstname.lastname@example.org.
As with traditional university-led pharmacy education, the apprenticeship model would have to be meet with standards set by the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC), IATE said.
‘Reject the proposals’
The Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) today (12 April) urged pharmacists to reject the proposals via the IATE consultation.
It said: ‘An apprenticeship route for qualification as a pharmacist would be highly disruptive to the pharmacy profession. It would shift the profession away from a professional University-led model to a model traditionally associated with technical occupations.
‘Apprenticeships would be appropriate for pharmacy technicians, but our view is that they are not appropriate to achieve a qualification as a pharmacist.’
It pointed out that the consultation had not been widely circulated within the sector, and ‘on that basis alone’, the plans should be abandoned, it said.
The PDA added: ‘There are many unanswered questions which cannot be addressed satisfactorily within the short timeframe available.’
A National Pharmacy Association (NPA) spokesman said: ‘We believe that a pharmacist is central to the very identity of any pharmacy, and that the future of community pharmacy lies in providing clinical services alongside the safe supply of medicines. It follows that we support the highest standards of education and training for pharmacists.’