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Education and training

More than 400 preregistration trainees switch placements each year

Exclusive: The Pharmaceutical Journal has identified an increase in the number of preregistration trainees transferring to a new training site during their preregistration year.

Pharmacy student


The pass rate for the GPhC’s June 2019 registration assessment fell to its lowest level since the regulator began running the exam in 2011

Rising numbers of trainees are switching to a new training site during their preregistration year, show figures obtained by The Pharmaceutical Journal.

Data from the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC), obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, show 412 preregistration trainees moved sites in the 2017 calendar year — an increase from 2016, when 389 trainees moved sites. Figures for 2018 were not yet available. 

The majority of transfers were made by trainees completing their placements in community pharmacy, with 316 switching in 2017, versus 278 in 2016. The exact motivations behind each transfer were not recorded.

In the 2016/2017 academic year, there were 3,097 preregistration trainees registered with the GPhC; in 2017/2018, there were 3,222.

Experts have said that transfers mid-training would inevitably cause disruption for the trainees.

The release of these data comes after the pass rate for the GPhC’s summer registration assessment fell to its lowest level in June 2019. This is since the regulator began running the exam in 2011.

In response, the regulator has launched an investigation into the lower-performing schools.

An analysis (see box) of 2,578 placement adverts on Oriel — the official site for allocating UK pharmacist preregistration training placements — also shows a lack of detailed information given by training providers

Box: Lack of information for pharmacy graduates

The Pharmaceutical Journal randomly reviewed 50 out of 2,578 adverts on Oriel and found:

  • None of the listings provided a detailed job description of the roles and responsibilities expected of trainees;
  • Only 4 listings provided specific details of their training programme including structure, time frames, type of training, how training is delivered and specific support on offer;
  • Only 2 listings included a named contact – both from Scotland;
  • All 50 listings included salary and sector.

Not one job listing was able to satisfy all three criteria of having a detailed job description, providing detailed information about their training programme and its structure, and a named contact for candidates to email or phone for more information.

Aamer Safdar, principal pharmacist lead for education and development at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust and a GPhC council member, said there may be many reasons for the rising numbers of preregistration trainees transferring to a new site. 

“We also must consider the impact on community pharmacy, and the pressure they are under, where they may no longer be able to support a trainee if the tutor pharmacist has left,” he said.

“There would inevitably be some disruption to the trainees if they switch, as the GPhC requires a minimum of six months of training to be completed before this can be ‘banked’.”

Louise Baglole, head of learning and development at the National Pharmacy Association, which represents community pharmacists, also said that there are various reasons why some students decide to move training places: “It can be personal reasons such as a student not settling well in the area, or it may be due to a preregistration tutor leaving.”

Rhys David Llewellyn, public relations officer of the British Pharmaceutical Students’ Association said he was “surprised” by the figures.

“I think this is something we need to look at. It could be that the trainee has moved to stay with a tutor but [is now] in a different location. If that is the case then it’s not as negative as it might look.” 

A spokesperson for Health Education England, the government agency responsible for NHS workforce and development, refused to comment.

The Pharmaceutical Journal approached the GPhC for comment.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2019.20207243

Readers' comments (3)

  • In 1985 , in retail pharmacy, I found there was no time for any clinical knowledge. I made a huge mistake and found I. Didn't want to sell dog food,sit on a till or sell perfumes. I regret that I didn't look into other more satisfying areas using clinical became essential and retail paid more than other sectors. Wish the choices had been more equal and I felt too inexperienced to make long term decisions. Not surprised pre reg. students can't commit.

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  • During my pre-reg in 2008, I was made to vacuum and mop the floor, take passport photographs, sell toothbrushes and install rat traps in the back of the pharmacy.
    The superintendent never bothered to teach me anything clinical, or do any work for that fact, but just sat on the phone all day, conducting their other side business

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  • I did my pre-reg in 2005/2006 mainly in community pharmacy but I was fortunate to have a tutor who was clinically inclined like me. We had regular discussions, I went on to complete a master's degree in clinical pharmacy and qualified as an independent prescriber while still working in community pharmacy. Today, I've completed various clinical, diagnostic and physical examination courses and in my fourth year working in General Practice. I'm currently advanced clinical practitioner and quite frankly there is very little difference between the patients I see and what my colleague GPs see. I'm still learning everyday - - planned and unplanned.
    I believe strongly that the community pharmacy placement site you work in and especially the tutor you work with as a young graduate can have a huge effect positively or negatively on your career.
    I think GPhC should not only look into the universities with poor pass rates but also into the tutors and placement sites.
    I have been tutored along the way to get to this level of clinical practice and even as an experienced professional I noted the impact of good or poor tutoring/support.
    If Pre-regs are recruited to get "free" extra pairs of hands for the workload without properly support and guidance in place at the placement sites, things can go sadly wrong for even the brightest young graduate.

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