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PDA to support trainee pharmacists (called pre-reg until end of summer 2021) through these difficult times – Covid-19 update 16

The PDA has written to all trainee pharmacist (called pre-reg until end of summer 2021) members about the consequences of decisions about the 2020 exams.

Fri 3rd April 2020 The PDA

The PDA has written to all trainee pharmacist (called pre-reg until end of summer 2021) members about the consequences of decisions about the 2020 exams.  The full text of the letter is:

A letter from PDA Chairman, Mark Koziol about the decision of the GPhC and PSNI to postpone the trainee pharmacist assessment.

In light of the Covid-19 crisis, both pharmacy regulators have made a difficult decision regarding the registration assessment and decided to postpone it and instead provide automatic provisional registration linked to a future assessment. In our discussions with the regulator, it was clear that various options were carefully explored before arriving at this final approach.

The PDA argued that many pharmacists on the register today have never sat a trainee pharmacist exam and today’s pharmacy graduates are better equipped with clinical knowledge than ever before. One view put forward was that the GPhC and PSNI could simply allow trainee pharmacists onto the register without needing to take an exam.

However, this was not possible because unlike other healthcare professions the quality frameworks supporting professional development for pharmacy graduates are at best inconsistent across the sectors and have been fractured for some time. Contrast that with young doctors who upon completing their academic studies, face a three-year rotation split under mentorship between a teaching hospital and a GP training practice as part of their journey to full professional qualification.

In the community pharmacy setting (the largest sector employer of pharmacists) there are no training grades, no supervised rotations and second pharmacist positions are rare. There is no structured career framework, no integrated five year course and the relentless commercial demands placed upon the Responsible Pharmacist, particularly within the multiple pharmacy sector, are professionally challenging and can encourage poor practice. Although the PDA is constantly working towards tackling these problems, the regulator has to make decisions based on the current reality and we understand why the assessment has been postponed.

We believe that those affected will need to be supported and the consequences of this decision carefully managed.

We have listened to the concerns and the profession must address the widespread disruption this decision will have caused to thousands of graduates, through driving change to protect future generations of pharmacists. The treatment of the 2020 trainee pharmacist cohort must not be allowed to happen again.

Listening to trainee pharmacists

Through our regular interactions with pharmacy graduates and undergraduates via our UK wide events, we understand your passion and anguish at this time. This year is the culmination of 5 years of hard work towards registration, so this change is a major disruption to your life plans.

We recognise many of you may feel your interests have been overlooked and that your contribution is not valued. We can and must change this by working together.

Next steps

The majority of trainee pharmacists are PDA members and if not, please join us for free and encourage your colleagues to do the same.

On your behalf we will do the following;

1. Seek clarity on the future trainee pharmacist assessment

We will do our utmost to make sure that any pharmacy work undertaken in the coming months and the accelerated professional development that this pandemic will help nurture, is considered in the design of any future assessment. It is likely in the coming months that all your efforts will be focussed on supporting the fight against Covid-19 and there will be little time to prepare for a traditional assessment. We are calling for a prompt announcement of the plans being developed by the regulators.

2. Supporting your employment issues

The ‘trainee pharmacist’ status must be fully explained, and we are already in dialogue with the regulator on this. A role as a second “pharmacist” during this period is a possibility which may impact upon your employment plans. We hope employers will assist in facilitating this change, but some may be less helpful. Our expert team of lawyers, pharmacist advisors and union officials are available to help ensure employers act flexibly, lawfully and in a reasonable way during these difficult times.

3. Support safe practice

We are already engaged in regular meetings with senior NHS and government representatives as well as other pharmacy organisations. We are in contact with the health ministers of all four UK countries and we are calling for an urgent review of the current position about the provision of personal protection equipment (PPE) to all front-line pharmacy staff. While many GP practices no longer offer face to face appointments, community pharmacists have seen a 50% increase in patient consultations. It is imperative that pharmacy staff are protected at work and tested as soon as larger scale Covid-19 testing is available.

4. Pharmacy undergraduate pipeline

The current year 4 pharmacy students are confused and uncertain about their final exams and trainee pharmacist placements. We are reaching out to the Pharmacy Schools to establish the collective response to the crisis is likely to be. With the threat of a normal trainee pharmacist experience being turned upside down, pharmacy undergraduates need reassurance and clarity about their future.

5. Enhanced Indemnity benefits

Alongside trade union membership, PDA membership provides Professional Indemnity insurance. The government has asked us to extend these benefits to support pharmacy-related Covid-19 activities and we have done so. Pharmacy undergraduate and trainee pharmacist membership of the PDA is FREE, as are your first three months of being newly qualified, which includes comprehensive professional indemnity insurance as well as the additional union and defence benefits of PDA membership.

6. Your health and well-being

We recognise the impact that this crisis may have on your mental health and well-being. The PDA regularly makes significant donations to Pharmacist Support who are the professions charity and we encourage you to use their services where necessary.

I hope that this letter provides you with reassurance and some comfort that you are not alone and the PDA is listening to your concerns. We will lobby and campaign for you and with you, we will support you when you need help and we will share important information through our website and on our social media platforms.

Of one thing I am certain, that just like the tens of thousands of other front line pharmacists who in the very tough months ahead will go to extra-ordinary lengths to help patients in some of the most professionally challenging circumstances in living memory, your actions will be a credit to our profession and you will forever be remembered as the class of 2020.

Yours sincerely,

Mark Koziol  M.R.Pharm.S

PDA Chairman







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