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Still not convinced pharmacy student numbers should be capped

In 2013 I explained in detail why I am in favour of market forces determining the number of students entering the MPharm course (The Pharmaceutical Journal 2013;291:246) rather than a cap being applied.

Despite overwhelming correspondence to your journal wanting a cap on student numbers I am still of the same opinion. Fayaz Ahmedali’s well argued letter (2014;294:84) from Canada did nothing to persuade me to change my mind.

Pharmacy employers can opt for quality or price when it comes to choosing pharmacists. Newly registered pharmacists, like new entrants to any profession, should expect a low initial salary until they have proved their worth. This has always been the case in community pharmacy as in most occupations.

As Ahmedali suggested, if successful, employees of multiples can be promoted and can enter the hierarchy of their organisation where the salaries of the senior managers will be high.

I am sure that the trial of Boots’s robotic distribution hub (2014;292:282) will be a success and lead, in a few years’ time, to a completely different model for community pharmacy where our skills and knowledge will be properly utilised and rewarded.

Owners of small groups of independent pharmacies will pay high salaries to the most suitable pharmacists because they want continuity of management for the branch and continuity of care for their patients. There are still about 6,000 independent pharmacies so proprietorship is still a wonderful option.

Ahmedali also said pharmacy graduates can uniquely choose any sector of our marvellous profession if they are not happy in the community.

Additionally, he compared pharmacy with the legal profession. Many law graduates fail to get a training contract and take up other professions successfully. This could equally apply to pharmacy graduates.

I teach final-year students at various schools of pharmacy and can report that they are, without exception, highly motivated and looking forward to the day when they will join our profession.

Barry Shooter

Bushey Heath,



Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2015.20067716

Readers' comments (1)

  • Dear Barry

    After reading your correspondence I have to say I totally disagree with you. Having market forces to determine the number of students entering the MPharm course is detrimental for the profession.

    That is not only my opinion but of the opinion of national organisations, individual pharmacists and students. The summary of responses makes clear that restricting recruitment of students on to the Mpharm course is more desirable than creating a split degree or the influence of a free market.

    The starting salaries in some of the multiples and some independents are all decreasing, not because these newly qualified pharmacists are inexperienced but because everyone knows that the competition caused by increasing numbers of graduates from all schools of pharmacy in the UK and number of overseas European pharmacists has driven the demand down. Recently the C &D wrote that locum salaries are lowest they have ever been for 7 years.

    As you are someone with immense experience in the business world you will be familiar with the supply and demand model. This is simply the case! I can understand if you are a business owner and employer it would be advantageous to you to have a free market- to drive down salaries, and give employers more options to choose from. But an employee who has to pay their mortgage and bills will succumb to any salary, not via choice but through necessity

    I have been hearing pharmacists taking new responsibilities for a number of years now, and I have seen some pharmacies do that. However for us to be recognised as a healthcare professional then I agree that we as pharmacist must do more than just dispense prescriptions as dispensing machines can do that at a fraction of the cost. If you refer to up skilling, then what skills do you suggest? As potentially training in an Mpharm degree would be best place to start.

    Having MPharm students spending from £36k for a four year degree, then being told they have to apply for something else is farcical, and I believe that was the point Fayaz Ahmedali was making. I suspect any 21 year will be optimistic and brimming with enthusiasm over the career they have spent so hard to achieve
    My former colleague is producing a development tool where he can provide training and skills to pre-regs in independents so they can all receive similar training. I think this is a step forward and I would like to see mandatory training for all pharmacists to attend 2 teaching sessions a year to show they are up to scratch with their knowledge and not just their cpd requirements.

    In short, I believe we need to cap the pharmacy numbers, and possibly up skill our training so that future pharmacists are more adept at taking on new skills, perhaps managing more conditions thus freeing up GP times.

    Adnan Baig



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