Applying for foundation trainee placements using Oriel

A brief guide for pharmacy students and trainee pharmacist applicants who would like to apply for a foundation training placement in England, Scotland or Wales using Oriel.

This fact sheet is a brief guide for pharmacy students and trainee pharmacist applicants who would like to apply for a foundation training placement in England, Scotland or Wales using Oriel.

Scottish applicants are now included in the Oriel system. This means that all applicants can use the system to apply for placements in England, Wales or Scotland. The two systems have tried wherever possible to synchronise the opening and close dates of the various parts of the Oriel process and this is the second year that NES will be using the Oriel system.

Candidates will still have to put in two applications, one for England and Wales, and one for Scotland. They will also have to complete two preferencing lists, however they will only need to do one SJT and one numeracy test.

What is Oriel?

Oriel is a portal used for the recruitment of a variety of healthcare professions. All pharmacy hospital foundation placements will be advertised via Oriel, and some, but not all community foundation placements. Students will be able to find community placements without Oriel in England, but should note that all available placements, no matter the sector, for Wales and Scotland will be advertised by Oriel alone.

Oriel handbook

The NHS has produced a handbook containing guidance to help applicants to submit a successful application. This covers areas including how to access Oriel and what information applicants will need to support their application, All third year pharmacy students should receive a hard copy of the Oriel handbook.

Applicants who have not received a copy of the handbook can request a copy by e-mailing 

The handbook can also be downloaded from the resource bank section of the Oriel website.

Queries about trainee pharmacist recruitment using Oriel

Health Education England has set up a support portal to assist applicants with queries regarding completion of an application form. This service is available from Monday-Friday 9.00-17.00. The support portal also has a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) that can be accessed at any time.

Enquiries can be submitted via

Alternatively, applicants can visit the HEE student zone.

Eligibility criteria for applying via Oriel

The following groups are eligible to apply for foundation placements via Oriel:-

  • All current third year UK MPharm undergraduates, any current third year UK MPharm student who has not consented for their School of Pharmacy to provide their details as requested by the PNRO will not be eligible to apply
  • UK MPharm graduates
  • Current Overseas Pharmacists Assessment Programme (OSPAP) students
  • OSPAP graduates
  • Bradford sandwich students.

Bradford sandwich students should note that they will apply to Oriel via their own vacancy offering, which is separate to the national vacancy offering. Guidance will be provided to these students via Bradford University. For further information please contact 

The following groups are not eligible to apply for foundation placements via Oriel:-

  • EEA pharmacists requiring adaptation training
  • applicants who have failed the registration assessment and are waiting to sit their second or third attempt
  • applicants who have already banked some training with the GPhC.

Oriel recruitment timeline

Applicants should pay particular attention to the opening and closing deadlines for submitting application forms, as late submissions will not be considered under any circumstances. Here are the important dates for training starting in 2022:-

  • Oriel applications open: 9 June 2021  12:00 GMT
  • Applications close:23 June 2021 12:00 GMT
  • The closing date for requests for adjustments in tests and interviews: 23 June 2021 12:00 GMT
  • Preferencing window opens: 28 July 2021
  • Invitation to SJT/numeracy test opens: 4 August 2021 (this date could be subject to change)
  • Invitation to SJT/numeracy test closes: 18 August 2021 (this date could be subject to change)
  • SJT/numeracy test begin: 27 September 2021
  • SJT/numeracy test closes: 9 October 2021* (this could be extended if needed for social distancing purposes)
  • Candidate preferencing window close: 29 October 2021
  • The dates for revised preferencing are still to be established.

Registration opens

Information about the various programmes on offer will be available to view from the point of registration, so applicants should register as soon as possible to allow time to make decisions about which programmes to apply for in plenty of time before submitting an application. Applicants will only need to submit one form, no matter how many programmes they opt for. Applicants who apply for both Scotland, and England and Wales will need to submit two forms.

Before starting an application, candidates are advised to read the person specification, job description, and professional attributes framework guidance.

Help with filling in an application form

Some candidates might like to seek assistance before completing an application form. Students could contact their personal tutor for further assistance.

Graduates could contact their university graduate careers service. All universities offer a graduate careers service as standard.

Can an applicant specify a preferred location?

Applicants will only be able to specify a particular geographical area under the following circumstances:-

  • if they are the primary carer for a disabled person
  • if they have a medical condition or disability for which ongoing treatment/follow up will be needed in the specified location as an absolute requirement. So if, for example, the treatment they need is readily available elsewhere in the country the request for a specific location will not be considered.

Applicants with special circumstances must provide supporting evidence. Parental responsibilities will not be taken into consideration when requesting a specific location.

There are a number of filters available when selecting preferences that will allow applicants to narrow their geographical area if needed (see below under Selecting preferences section).

For further information, see Appendix E of the Foundation pharmacy recruitment handbook.

Requesting reasonable adjustments for a medical condition or disability 

Applicants who wish to request reasonable adjustments for a medical condition or disability, for example, for the selection centre interviews and assessments, will need to fill in the on-line Request for Adjustments form. This form and supporting documents should then be completed and submitted by midday 23 June 2021.

For full details, including accessing the form and submission, see Apendix D in the Foundation Pharmacist Recruitment handbook.

Selecting preferences

Applicants will not be asked to express their preferences from the programmes advertised when they first submit their application form. Applicants will need to complete their preferencing during the preferencing window, which will run from the 28 July to 29 October 2021.

Please note, a programme is not necessarily an individual job offer, a programme can be a number of positions being offered by one employer. For example, a large multiple could have a programme containing multiple placements. Applicants will not be asked to express a preference for one individual role from within a programme.

A number of filters are available to help applicants to choose their preferences. These include:-

  • size of organisation (community only)
  • specialty (hospital only)
  • the number of placements available within a programme
  • the country/area in which the programme is based
  • name of training provider
  • international students who are planning to apply for a skilled worker visa will need to choose employers who have SWV (skilled worker visa) within their programme preference code
  • international students who are planning to apply for a graduate visa can apply for all jobs, they will not need a sponsor.

There are three preference levels:-

  • preference – applicants should mark programmes they would be happy to accept and rank all preferences starting with number 1 for most preferred
  • no preference– all programmes are listed in this way initially. If applicants choose to mark a programme as no preference it will mean that they are happy to take an offer from this programme if their initial preferences are not successful
  • not wanted – applicants should select this option for any programmes they would not be willing to accept under any circumstances

Applicants can select the preference option for as many programmes as they wish. Applicants can change their preferences as often as needed during the preferencing window.

Bulk preferencing

Applicants will be able to move programmes in bulk from within the preferencing section of the application. This will be useful to candidates who know that there are certain types of programmes that they are not interested in. For example, candidates who are only interested in hospital placements can use the filtering tool to show all community programmes and then bulk preference them in the ‘not wanted’ category.

Enhanced preferencing

Enhanced preferencing comes into effect after offers have been made. It is designed to provide an opportunity for applicants to change their preferencing at a very late stage.

Applicants who have received and accepted an offer will be able to select upgrade options for programmes that they ranked both higher and lower in their preferencing table.

Applicants who have not received an offer will be able to amend their preferences up until the final round of offers. This will include re-ranking programmes from their ‘preferenced’ category and/or moving preferences from within the ‘no preference’ and ‘not wanted’ categories.

Enhanced preferencing will take place between offer rounds and applicants will be informed via Oriel when this service is available to them.

Application submission deadline

Applicants should note that the deadline for submissions is midday on 23 June 2021.  Late applications will not be accepted. Applicants should try to ensure that they submit their form in plenty of time. Leaving it until the very last minute is not a good idea.

Once the applications window has closed, long-listing by Oriel will begin. This will include checks to verify the eligibility of applicants. Some applicants may be required to provide additional information and applicants are advised to answer any such queries promptly to avoid having their application withdrawn from the recruitment process. Applicants should note that potential employers have no input in the long-listing process. Employers will only be notified about potential candidates at the end of the Oriel recruitment process (see below under What happens when an offer has been accepted section).

Selection centre invitations

Invitations to the selection centre interviews will be sent out via e-mail. The SJT and numeracy test will both take place on the same day at the same venue. The MMI test will be undertaken separately on a different day at a different venue.

Selection centre interviews and assessments

Applicants will be assessed against criteria taken directly from the Person Specification and Foundation Pharmacist Professional Attributes Framework. The NHS recommends that all candidates read both of these documents thoroughly to aid preparation for the interview and assessment day.

Both documents can be accessed via the HEE on-line support portal.

The Multiple Mini Interviews (MMI)

There will be no MMIs this year owing to the government social distancing guidance during the pandemic.

SJT/numeracy test

All SJT/numeracy tests will take place at a Pearson VUE Centre. Applicants will need to arrive 15 minutes before their booked time.  Invitations to the SJT/numeracy tests will be sent out between the 4 and 18 August 2021. Applicants who have requested reasonable adjustments will be able to book their slot in the usual manner if they have only requested additional time, as the booking system will recognise and facilitate this. Applicants who have adjustments beyond additional time will be contacted directly by Pearson VUE.

Applicants should also note that they may be sitting with people who are taking non HEE trainee pharmacy recruitment tests, for example, a driver theory test.

For further information about Pearson VUE centres, see the Pearson VUE website.

The numeracy test

The numeracy test lasts approximately fifteen minutes. Smart phones and smartwatches are prohibited, however candidates will be able to take a calculator into the numeracy test. Only the following calculators are permitted:

  • Casio MX-8S-WE (this model is still permitted in the assessment although it is now discontinued)
  • Casio MX 8B-WE / MX-8B
  • Aurora HC133
  • Aurora DT210

Applicants should note that their calculators will be subject to a visual inspection prior to the test. Other items, such as spare calculators, calculator covers, keystroke cards, instruction manuals and spare batteries will not be permitted in the testing room. Applicants can store these items in a secure locker and request to retrieve them if needed during the test.


The SJT is an online test examining four of the attributes from within the Foundation Pharmacist Professional Attributes Framework. The test that will consist of 52 scenarios to be completed in 104 minutes. SJT  examples can be viewed on the HEE website.

First offers

Following the interviews applicants’ scores are loaded to Oriel which will then generate unique ranks based on scores. Applicants are then matched to programmes according to rank and then preference.

Oriel will make the first offers in mid-November. Applicants will be notified of offers via e-mail. Once the offers are made applicants have 48 hours excluding weekends and bank holidays to accept, accept with upgrades or decline an offer. Applicants who decline an offer will be removed from the process. Applicants who let an offer expire will be removed from the process.  Once applicants have been removed they will no longer be eligible to receive any subsequent offers.


Applicants who opt in to the upgrade option will automatically be upgraded to any of their higher ranked preferences should they become available. The upgrades deadline has yet to be confirmed but it should be towards the end of November.


Depending on the number of programmes left at the end of the offer process, a clearing process to match remaining candidates to available programmes may be undertaken. If clearing does take place, applicants will have the option to re-preference all of the remaining programmes and offers will then be made according to candidate ranking.

What happens once an offer has been accepted?

Information about successful applicants will be passed on to employers in December. The NHS recommends that applicants wait for their employer to contact them.

All offers will be subject to pre-employment checks, for example, occupational health check and appropriate references. These checks will normally be done between January and March 2022.

Applicants should ask to see a copy of their employment contract before they begin their placement.

For further information about employment contracts, see our Foundation pharmacists employment contracts fact sheet.

Can I still apply for a foundation placement without using Oriel?

Whilst all hospital placements will only be offered via Oriel, many community placements will still be offered independently. Applicants should note that even those community pharmacies who are using Oriel may still be offering additional placements that will not require an on-line Oriel application submission.

A full list of all employers using the Oriel recruitment system will be made available in June.

For further information about finding a pre-registration placement, see our Finding a placement fact sheet.

Other useful information and websites

Health Education England (HEE) Foundation Trainee Pharmacist Recruitment Applicant Handbook

The HEE handbook contains a wealth of information about applying for a placement using the Oriel recruitment portal. To view a copy of the handbook on-line, go to the resource bank section of the Oriel website.

Health Education England (HEE) Support Portal

This support portal holds information about pre-registration pharmacy recruitment. There is a selection of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) and applicants who cannot find an answer to their query also have the option of submitting an enquiry. For further information, visit the HEE Support Portal. 

This fact sheet was updated on the 28 July 2021. 

Foundation trainee pharmacist: employment contracts

This fact sheet contains information about employment contracts for foundation trainee pharmacists. It includes information on what to look for in a contract and where to seek advice.

International students (non-EEA): visa requirements for the foundation year

This fact sheet contains information about visa requirements for international students who have finished their MPharm or OSPAP and want to begin their foundation training.

The foundation trainee pharmacist training grant

This fact sheet contains information about the foundation training grant, including who can claim it and what happens if a trainee pharmacist switches training provider part way through the year.