Ministers put the cap on pharmacy student numbers (UK)

By Elizabeth Gibney

The number of students embarking on pharmacy programmes in England will be restricted to match the number of NHS-funded training placements.  The decision, taken by universities and science minister David Willetts and health minister Lord Howe and announced by Health Education England, follows a campaign by the Pharmacy Schools Council (PhSC) and the British Pharmaceutical Students’ Association to introduce such a cap.

As reported in Times Higher Education in October, as part of the Modernising Pharmacy Careers board the organisations warned that a failure to restrict the increasing number of pharmacy places could leave graduates unable to complete the training needed to practice as a pharmacist. The move will bring pharmacy into line with medicine and dentistry, which are already subject to similar controls.

According to the Department for Health the number of training places will reflect demand for the pharmacist workforce in England including community pharmacy, but also including academia and the pharmaceutical industry.

John Smart, chairman of the PhSC said the move was a step in the right direction towards recognising pharmacy as a healthcare profession.  “Students are faced with the burden of increased fees and it is only fair that we also work to address the circumstances which could prevent them from attaining their chosen career,” said the council in a statement.  “A mechanism designed to manage student pharmacist numbers will help to establish pharmacy on a par with other healthcare professions, while also working to support effective workforce planning,” it added.

The Department of Health has commissioned the Centre for Workforce Intelligence to carry out a review of student numbers in pharmacy, which will inform decisions about the level of the cap.  In a statement, the department said that the final decision on separate proposal from the MPC board to develop the four-year pharmacy degree into a five year course, which includes pre-registration training, is yet to be made.

Source: Times Higher Education