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A step in the right direction

Ten years ago, the first cohort of would-be pharmacists who all had completed four years at university before embarking on their preregistration year took the registration examination. There were 1,470 candidates, of whom 1,392 were successful.

This year, there were 2,475 candidates, of whom 2,342 were successful — an increase over a decade to as many as 1,000 additional pharmacists on the hunt for employment.

This reflects the new university courses that have come on stream in the past few years. Is it any cause for anxiety? There have been concerns expressed by some academics and by students through the pages of The Journal and comments made online. But the truth is nobody actually knows. There is a great deal of information and data available about the make-up of the current Register in terms of sector of work, age, sex, etc — but even that information by has to be gathered retrospectively.

What seems to be missing is an understanding of whether the future intentions of undergraduates will match their employment prospects. So we were interested to receive an article from enterprising student (now preregistration trainee) and PJ Online blogger Ranveer Bassey, who, through Freedom of Information requests, has managed to find out quite a lot about the undergraduate population.

It is a step in the right direction. But it is not really the same as workforce planning. The tricky thing for pharmacy is that workforce planning is not as straightforward as it is for other health professions (such as medicine and nursing) because most pharmacists do not work in the NHS. Many work either for large corporations or for themselves and although workforce demands can be linked to new service developments and other contractual changes — both pharmacy contracts and service contracts — it is not an exact science. It depends on many other factors and players. And it is likely to become even more complicated, at least in England, as clinical commissioning groups bed in and local authorities take over public health in 2013.

Nevertheless, students embarking on their courses this year and thereafter will need reassurance that they will not be left high and dry in five or more years’ time — an issue we trust is high on the agenda of the Modernising Pharmacy Careers programme board. It is a wake-up call, if nothing else, for anyone in the pharmacy family who believes that workforce planning will be better for the profession in the long run than an unstructured free-for-all.

 

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal URI: 11104802

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