Managing concerns about student fitness to practise

Following a consultation late last year, we have updated our guidance on managing fitness to practise concerns in pharmacy education and training. The revised guidance aims to provide advice to everyone involved in the education and training of pharmacists and pharmacy technicians about their responsibilities in relation to the fitness to practise of students and trainees.

October 2020

This will allow them to put in place robust and effective fitness to practise procedures, including being clear on how concerns about behaviour, conduct or health should be shared when more than one organisation is involved in education and training.

The revised guidance also places greater emphasis on the support education and training providers should offer to supporting students and trainees with disabilities or other physical or mental health conditions. While our guidance is aimed at education and training providers, students and trainees may also find it useful. It can help them understand how educators deal with concerns about professionalism and fitness to practise issues.

Whereas previously the guidance only applied to schools of pharmacy, the revised guidance:

  • now applies to all providers of education and training that lead to pharmacy professional registration, including pharmacy technician education and training and pharmacist pre-registration training
  • includes information on recognising and managing issues before they result in fitness to practise concerns.

Read the Guidance on managing fitness to practise concerns in education and training

Applying the guidance

In addition to this new guidance we have also developed eight case studies to help individuals, including students and trainees, and organisations interpret and understand the principles of the guidance in practice. 

These case studies cover a number of issues that can occur in a range of education and training settings and relate to aspiring pharmacy professionals. Each case study falls under a specific theme. Themes range from serious misconduct to academic malpractice and plagiarism. We recommend that all students, trainees and course providers review the case studies carefully. 

Read the Managing fitness to practise concerns in education and training: Case studies

This revised guidance will help education and training providers to develop and apply consistent procedures when concerns are raised about a student or trainee. It will also help students and trainees understand the importance of professionalism and fitness to practise which they will take forth into their careers.

Case study: managing health issues

What happened?

Sharan is a pre-registration pharmacist trainee. She has an excellent academic record but is not enjoying her placement at a branch of a large multiple pharmacy group. Sharan is starting to worry about the increasing workload in the busy pharmacy. She didn't speak to anyone about how she felt as she was worried they might think she couldn't cope.

As the placement year progressed Sharan became more stressed and had trouble sleeping which affected her concentration. Some days she couldn't attend work due to migraines and relationship problems with her boyfriend began to develop. As a result, Sharan began to miss work on a number of occasions and had made a number of errors in the pharmacy. She felt depressed but did not seek any medical support.

One of Sharan’s friends, and a fellow trainee, noticed she didn't seem to be her normal, confident self and appeared withdrawn and upset. He encouraged Sharan to go and see her GP and speak to her tutor, but Sharan didn't want to. She was worried the GP would tell her employer and the problems she was experiencing would compromise her ability to become a pharmacy professional. Sharan continued to struggle. Her attendance and performance continued to deteriorate.

Her tutor became concerned and met to discuss the matters with Sharan. She did not tell him about her feeling depressed, her struggles with the pre-reg year or her personal struggles. She was worried that the employer wouldn't support her or sign off her training.

The tutor was very concerned and referred Sharan to occupational health.

What action did the employer take?

At the occupational health meeting Sharan became upset and admitted she was struggling with her mental health and workplace pressures.

The employer was sympathetic to Sharan’s situation. They addressed her level of absence and poor performance and referred her to a counsellor. Sharan also attended her GP, was diagnosed with depression, and received medication.

The tutor also provided a workplace mentor to work closely with Sharan so she could build confidence in the workplace. She also attended a resilience course.

Sharan responded well to the treatment prescribed by the GP and the adjustments put in place by her tutor. With this ongoing support in place, she managed to get back on track and continued with the placement year to a successful conclusion.

See the key learning and discussion points in the case study document

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