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Increase in schools does not reflect demand for pharmacists

I read with interest Barry Shooter’s letter in which he argued that he is still not convinced pharmacy student numbers should be controlled (The Pharmaceutical Journal 2015;294:148). As a postgraduate researcher and a teacher-practitioner who is regularly in touch with undergraduate students, my conclusion is different. Part of the initial findings of my study, which investigates strategies enhancing the public health role of community pharmacists[1], indicates that, since the year 2000, the number of pharmacy schools in England have more than doubled. The situation in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland is different since the number of pharmacy schools in these nations have remained fairly constant for the past 50 years or so.

I do not think that the increase in the number of pharmacy schools in England is in any way reflective of any increase in the demand of pharmaceutical services in England.

Yet, the recent announcement that UK pharmacy student numbers will not be controlled (The Pharmaceutical Journal 2014;294:412) adds to the problem. You only need to be an employee pharmacist in England to understand the impact this position has on ordinary pharmacists, who are struggling daily to make ends meet as well as repaying the loans (including student loans) they might have incurred. We need to widen the career options of pharmacy graduates urgently.

Also, the comparison of pharmacy with the legal profession to justify the oversupply of pharmacists is incorrect because the two professions are different. While law graduates can easily be self-employed with reasonable incomes or work as legal advisers, secretaries and executives in many organisations, such opportunities are not readily available to pharmacists. Most importantly, you cannot own a legal firm if you are not a lawyer. We should, instead, compare pharmacy student numbers with those of other health professions in the UK, such as doctors and dentists.

Chijioke O Agomo

Borehamwood,

Hertfordshire

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2015.20067864

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