This fact sheet gives information on a range of common enquiries we receive from pre-registration trainee pharmacists.
Making the most of your foundation training year
The foundation training year is the culmination of many years of study and it is important that trainees try to make the most of their training and get as much information and support as possible throughout their training year.
Setting up foundation training: the contract of employment
We suggest that trainees get a written copy of the contract of employment before their training begins and read it through carefully. All employees are entitled to a written statement of their main terms and conditions of employment within two months of starting work. The contract sets out rights and responsibilities of the employer and employee. The rights set out in the contract are in addition to rights under law such as the right to paid holiday and the right not to be discriminated against on the grounds of race, sex, disability, sexual orientation, age, religion or belief, or gender reassignment. Note that the contract of employment can give additional rights, for example, more paid holiday than the legal minimum, but it cannot take away or reduce legal rights. On leaving employment employees are entitled to be paid any outstanding holiday pay and notice pay if applicable. If you have queries about your contract of employment, Pharmacist Support may be able to help by referring you to a specialist Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) adviser. If you would like to be referred, contact us on our general enquiry line: 0808 168 2233, or email us on: firstname.lastname@example.org. The Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) may also be able to help. For full contact details for the PDA, see the Employment advice section below.
Illness during foundation training
Trainees who become ill and are unable to work may be paid by their employer for the first four days of absence but this will depend on whether this is part of their employment contract. After the first four days of absence, trainees may be entitled to statutory sick pay (SSP). Some people may also be entitled to claim benefit – Pharmacist Support can refer you for advice on benefit entitlement and may be able to help with some financial support, in the case of real hardship. For full contact details for Pharmacist Support, see the Setting up foundation training section above. The foundation training section of the GPhC asks that all trainees who are likely to be off work for more than one week contact them for further advice.
Managing your money throughout the year
Receiving a salary will be a great feeling and after four years of student living it may be tempting to treat yourself, which is great – after all, you have worked hard. However, trainees should remember that they also need to think about the long term and consider how they are going to budget for their foundation year and beyond. In particular, trainees will need to plan for the time from when they receive their final salary payment upon finishing their placement, through sitting the assessment, registering as a pharmacist, starting work and receiving their first salary. Budgeting is not only about ensuring there are enough funds to cover day to day costs, trainees will also need to take into account other known costs and expenses, such as, the fee for the GPhC final assessment exam, the cost of registering with the GPhC as a pharmacist, road fund licence if they have a car or dental costs. Budgeting is not about depriving yourself, it is about taking control and being proactive. It is basically making sure that you are spending less than you are bringing in and planning for both the short and long-term. Stop and think before entering into a tenancy or car agreement, ask yourself: can I afford to make these monthly payments if my income should drop or stop? The Money Helper website has budgeting tools to help people manage their finances. These include a:-
- budget planner
- detailed spending breakdown
- cut-back calculator.
For further information, visit their website. Pharmacist Support can also refer you for free and confidential money management advice provided by a trained Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) adviser. For full contact details for Pharmacist Support see the Setting up foundation training section above.
No income before or after training programme
Trainees may be without income, for example:-
- after the end of a university course and before they have started a training programme; or
- after a training programme has finished but before they start work; or
- if they fail the registration assessment and are not earning.
Trainees who are available for work and actively seeking work may be entitled to receive jobseeker’s allowance (JSA), but they will have to be able to demonstrate that they are both available for work and actively seeking work. They may also be entitled to housing benefit for help with rent and council tax support. People who are not British citizens may not be entitled to claim benefit and we suggest they seek advice from a benefits adviser. It is important to start a claim as quickly as possible as, once entitlement to benefit has been established, the benefit will be payable from the point when the claim was started. A claim for JSA can be made online, for full details, see the government website. People who cannot make a claim online should contact their local Jobcentre Plus office for further assistance. Pharmacist Support can also refer you to a specialist CAB adviser for free and confidential telephone or email advice or your local CAB can help with information on benefit entitlement. For full contact details for Pharmacist Support, see the Setting up foundation training section above.
Financial difficulties before, during and after foundation training
Financial assistance towards essential expenditure in times of hardship may be provided to foundation trainees by Pharmacist Support.
If you are currently experiencing hardship, do not hesitate to contact us. We can help you assess whether an application for financial assistance is the best route and discuss what other support might be available for you.
For full contact details for Pharmacist Support, see the Setting up foundation training section above.
Problems with debts
If you are facing unmanageable debts and cannot afford to make the repayments, interest and charges could make the debt increase. Non-payment of debt will affect your credit rating and may affect your ability to obtain credit in the future. Pharmacist Support can provide free and confidential advice from a Citizens Advice Bureau specialist debt adviser. The adviser can help with managing debt. For example, if you have multiple debts and are facing pressure from creditors, the adviser can help with negotiating with creditors and rescheduling payments. For full contact details for Pharmacist Support, see the Setting up foundation training section above.
Foundation recruitment timetable
The Oriel recruitment timetable can often differ from that of community pharmacy employers. This can lead to trainees receiving an offer from one employer whilst still waiting for an offer from their preferred employer. If you find yourself in this situation and are concerned about contractual obligations once you have committed to a job offer, you can contact us for a referral to a specialist employment adviser for further guidance and advice. For full contact details for Pharmacist Support, see above under the Setting up foundation training section. Please note, contractual disputes with an employer are not a fitness to practice issue and the GPhC will not become involved in employer/employee contractual disputes.
The training year
The GPhC suggests that any trainees experiencing problems with their training programme should initially speak to their supervisor or foundation trainee manager (if different). There may also be regional training leads or teacher practitioners who are able to help. If the issue is still unresolved, trainees can contact the GPhC on 020 3365 3400 and ask to speak to the foundation training section. Trainees who feel that the training arrangements being offered fall short of GPhC requirements can inform the GPhC formally by raising a concern through the GPhC website.
Rapport with supervisor and other staff
The GPhC stresses the importance of a trainee developing a good rapport with their supervisor and other members of the dispensing team, in order to get the most out of the training year. Everyone makes mistakes sometimes, do not expect to know everything at the outset of your training. Do not be afraid to ask questions, even if you have already asked the question before, better to get it right than to worry about not knowing the answer.
The foundation year is designed to help you to learn the many different skills you will need to become a qualified pharmacist. Occasionally, supervisors will have to give trainees constructive criticism. It is helpful to try to use this as a valuable opportunity from which to learn. Being open and learning from previous mistakes will make you a more attractive proposition for any future employer.
Change of supervisor
Some trainees may have to deal with a change of supervisor during their training year. This could be for a variety of reasons, for example, ill health or maternity leave. Trainees who had a good relationship with their departing supervisor may find this particularly upsetting. It is worth remembering that relationships take time to establish, and the new supervisor will be finding their feet, just like you.
For further information about changing supervisors, see GPhC online foundation information. Trainees who began their training prior to July 2021 should refer to the GPhC online pre-registration trainee manual.
Every year a small number of foundation trainees will encounter problems with their supervisor. These can range from personal problems to issues relating to employment law. Whatever the problem, it is best to seek advice at the earliest possible opportunity. At some point in our working lives, we might need to deal with people whom we just do not like or are simply unable to get along with. If trainees find that they are clashing with their supervisor on a personal level, in the first instance it could be best to try to talk to the supervisor. Whilst it may be difficult to approach a supervisor, managing and resolving problems is a useful skill for all trainees to develop as their careers progress. Also, the GPhC expects trainees to demonstrate as one of their competencies the ability to handle conflict effectively. For further information, see the GPhC online foundation training guidance.
If the problems with a supervisor go beyond a simple personality clash, for example, if a trainee is being bullied, they may find it difficult to approach their supervisor. In these instances trainees could try any of the following:-
- enlist the help of a colleague to mediate
- contact their HR department
- talk to their trade union representative
- follow their employer’s internal grievance procedures
- contact Pharmacist Support for specialist employment advice.
Trainees who decide that they are unable to continue with their placement and would like to change site must get the approval of the GPhC. It might be possible to bank some of the training at a pre-determined point, such as week 13 or week 26. Trainees who are considering this as an option should get in touch with the foundation training team at the GPhC on 020 3365 2400 to ascertain whether they would agree to a change in placement. For further information, see the GPhC online foundation training guidance.
Problems with progress reports
Trainees who are having difficulties in reaching all of the performance standards may find that their supervisor is not willing to sign them off at one or more of the progress reports. In these instances the GPhC recommends that trainees should identify and agree ways to improve their performance with their supervisor, with an appropriate time frame, to reassess performance in that particular area. If an agreement for an extended period of training cannot be reached, trainees may have to undergo a further period of training. Any trainee who is concerned about their progress reports should contact the GPhC as soon as possible to discuss their options.
If you are having employment problems, for example, unauthorised deductions from your wages, disciplinary issues, bullying and/or harassment, Pharmacist Support can refer you to a Citizens Advice Bureau specialist employment adviser for free and confidential advice. For full contact details for Pharmacist Support, see the Setting up foundation training section above.
The Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA)
The PDA also offers free membership to foundation trainees; this includes legal defence insurance, professional indemnity insurance and trade union membership. Contact the PDA at: The Old Fire Station 69 Albion Street Birmingham B1 3EA Tel: 0121 694 7000 Email: email@example.com Web: www.the-pda.org
Listening Friends is a free and confidential listening service for people suffering from stress. It is staffed by pharmacists who are familiar with the particular pressures on those working in pharmacy. Listening Friends can call foundation trainees about a range of issues, for example, anxiety about the registration exam, dealing with ill health or bereavement or difficult situations in the workplace. To request a call from a Listening Friend contact us on: 0808 168 5133.
Help with an addiction problem
If you have an addiction problem – drug, alcohol, gambling or any other kind of dependency – or if you know of a friend or colleague with a problem, you can contact the Addiction Support Programme (ASP) for advice. This service is completely confidential. The ASP can be contacted directly on: 0808 168 5132
Repayment of a student loan
Student loan repayments are due from the April following the end of your course. However, repayments are linked to income and only those who earn above the minimum income threshold will be required to make repayments. Qualifying employees will have the repayments deducted automatically from their salary. Self-employed people are expected to calculate and make their own repayments. For further information on repayment of student loans, including the up-to-date minimum income threshold, see the Student Loans Company (SLC) website.
There are a range of courses for pre-registration trainees.
Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS)
If you join the RPS, you will automatically gain access to all of their support services and 30 days free with ONtrack, see the RPS website for full details.
Centre for Pharmacy Postgraduate Education (CPPE)
The CPPE have a series of programmes for foundation trainee pharmacists, visit their website for details.
National Pharmacy Association (NPA)
The NPA have a special programme for trainees, for further information, see the website.
British Pharmaceutical Students’ Association (BPSA)
The BPSA have special services for trainees, including a magazine, for further details, see their website.
Buttercups website has information about their foundation trainee pharmacist courses.
The ResourcePharm website offers a range of information for trainees, including exam preparation and useful things to put in your file.
If you are considering paying for private tuition, it is advisable to do a thorough check on the credentials and references of any potential tutor, to ensure quality.
Request for a reasonable adjustment
The GPhC will consider requests for adjustments in order to ensure that no trainee who sits the assessment is disadvantaged. Evidence to support an adjustment request must be from a doctor or other appropriately qualified person, and must give details of how a disadvantage would affect performance during the assessment. Details about the provision of supporting evidence needed when applying for adjustments can be found on the GPhC website. The GPhC sets a deadline for applications for reasonable adjustments. Requests that are submitted after the deadline will not be considered.
Trainees who have previously been granted an adjustment and are sitting for the second or third time will need to put in a fresh application for each sitting. Adjustments agreed to for previous assessments cannot be carried over to a further sitting. For guidance on all aspects of requesting an adjustment and also to download the request form, see the GPhC online foundation training guidance.
Fit to sit
For trainees who are aware of any illness/personal issue that could affect their performance in the assessment, the GPhC stress the importance of only sitting if fit to do so. Trainees can withdraw from the assessment at any point up until the exam invigilator issues the withdrawal deadline.
The GPhC must be informed, in writing, of any decision to withdraw within five working days of the assessment date. Trainees will not lose their assessment registration fee if they withdraw, the fee will be refunded within 28 days of the sit to the card from which the initial payment was made. For further information, see the GPhC fit to sit guidance on their website.
For further information about preparing for the assessment, see our Foundation assessment fact sheet.
If you fail
Nobody likes to fail. If you fail the assessment it is only natural that you will feel disappointed. Feelings of anger, despair and disappointment are common; however, it is important to try to keep your perspective. You might find it useful to talk to a Listening Friend. See the Stress section above for further details on Listening Friends, and how to request a call from a Listening Friend.
The GPhC stress that an appeal can only be made on the basis of new information/circumstances coming to light that you could not have been aware of on the day. The GPhC website has examples of situations that will not be considered grounds for appeal. If something goes wrong on the day of the assessment you must inform the invigilator, and contact the GPhC as soon as possible to request a nullification. Appeals are not accepted for anything that could have formed the basis of a request for nullification.
Even if you are waiting for the outcome of an appeal, it is advisable that you register for your next attempt of the exam by the deadline date.
If you have failed three times
If you have failed your final assessment exam three times, rest assured that there are a number of alternative options available to you. Remember that you do have a good science degree as well as your own skills, knowledge and experience and many graduate vacancies do not specify particular degree disciplines. Pharmacist Support’s Careers advice and options for pharmacy graduates fact sheet has information on getting careers advice and on career options, including alternative career suggestions such as teaching, further research and medical/scientific proof-reading. For further details, see our website.
Please note, you can also still submit an appeal if you have mitigating circumstances.
Am I eligible for support from Pharmacist Support
Anyone who is a foundation trainee is eligible to apply for help from Pharmacist Support. This includes someone who is undertaking their training year, someone who has finished their training and will be sitting the assessment ,and someone who has failed the assessment, as long as they intend to re-sit it and have made arrangements with the GPhC in this respect.
Overseas students who have successfully complete their MPharm course and wish to apply for a foundation training placement may need to apply for work visa.
All overseas students will have to make their own visa arrangements once they graduate. The UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) formerly known as UK Borders Agency website has information on the rules on working in the UK. The UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA) has a wealth of information on its website on working in the UK, including answers to frequently asked questions and information sheets on the rules and applying to stay.
For further information see our International students (non-EEA):visa requirements for the foundation training year fact sheet.
If you cannot find the information you need, UKCISA also runs an advice line Mon-Fri from 1.00pm to 4.00pm. Tel: 020 7107 9922 Web: http://www.ukcisa.org.uk/
Ready to register
Foundation trainees can submit an application to join the register after week 49 of their training, even if they have not yet sat the registration assessment or are waiting for their results. Trainees who pass will have their applications processed more quickly than those who wait until after the assessment results. However, if they then fail the assessment, they will not be reimbursed the application fee, but will receive their first entry fee back. For further information, see our Registering as a pharmacist fact sheet.
Online forums enable you to connect with other foundation pharmacist trainees. You can share your experiences, get hints and tips on exam preparation and help with placements.
Pharmacy Forum UK
This forum was created for anybody who is working, studying or interested in pharmacy. They have a section dedicated to trainee pharmacists. Membership to this online site is free. Web: http://www.pharmacy-forum.co.uk/content/
Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS)
If you are a member of the RPS you will have access to a variety of networking opportunities through their online groups – there are currently over 100 virtual networks to choose from. For further information, you can contact their helpline on 0845 257 2570 or visit their website. Web: http://www.rpharms.com/home/home.asp
The Student Room
The Student Room has sections for pharmacy students and also trainee pharmacists. Topics include health and relationships, careers and student finance. Web: http://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/
This fact sheet was last reviewed on 28 July 2021.