The Pharmacy Schools Council (PhSC) has said that it fully recognises the exceptional circumstances associated with the current crisis and naturally, wish to be as helpful as possible in these very challenging times.
The GPhC has indicated that there are no immediate plans to formally mobilise the student body at the present time, although that could change in the future.
They have also said that they need to emphasise that they are a facilitating rather than an instructional group, hence individual Schools are always free to act in the manner that they see fit. There has nevertheless been a common consensus that a clarifying statement would be useful on the specific issue of Year 3 and Year 4 MPharm students joining the workforce immediately.
They are actively liaising with several bodies, including the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC), to ensure that we find a suitable balance between assisting the national health initiative, ensuring that they are protecting the health and careers of students and ensuring that the public is served by providing a competent and skilled workforce of pharmacists for the future.
In response to many Schools of Pharmacy being approached by colleagues in community and hospital to ask for PhSC to encourage 3rd and 4th-year students to join the workforce with immediate effect they have made the following statement:
“Ultimately the decision of such engagement has to rest with the individual students, but from our perspective, we are very aware that the GPhC is keen that we maintain the supply of graduates to the workplace and is working closely with us to ensure that this outcome is safeguarded.
“Our students are still studying and are currently in the period immediately before their exams, which typically take place in April and May. Should they engage now then there is not only the possibility of their not being able to progress due to illness or lack of revision but we would also miss out on the opportunity of having a group of students who would, should they so choose, be in a position to assist, suitably qualified and healthy, after their exams in May and beyond when they could well be most needed.
“We would not wish to actually prevent students from engaging if they so wish, although many Schools are of the view that we should be supporting our students to get through the forthcoming examination period as the immediate priority. We would, in any case, ask colleagues in all areas of practice who would like to have student assistance as soon as possible to go through the Schools of Pharmacy rather than contacting careers advisors or students directly.
“Our students are already quite anxious at this point in the academic cycle and our initial impression, from the students that have been in contact with us on this issue, is that the majority wish to complete their exams over the next few weeks. We do all need to respect those students that have this view and not pressurise them or make them feel that they are in any way in the denigration of their duty to the public. As stated above, we need these students qualified and healthy as we move forward, as this crisis may stretch over several months.
“There is, of course, the parallel issue of support from pharmacists on the staff and also the possibility of students whose examinations may be cancelled being in a better position to help if they so wish in the short term, albeit in less professionally onerous roles if they are from lower years. We will, of course, cooperate with all those requesting their assistance and hope that we can end up with a situation where we both meet the immediate needs of the profession and public as well as safeguard the future support that our students and graduates can and will supply.”