A pharmacy crisis about maintaining professional standards is looming, as cash-hungry universities accept a conveyer belt of students, many of whom fail at the final hurdle.

The Guild of Healthcare Pharmacists (GHP) is concerned that more than 3,000 of the 12,000 current pharmacy students will fail the registration exam at the first of three attempts, after completing their degree, leaving them facing thousands of pounds of student debt after five years of study.

Since the year 2000, the numbers of UK pharmacy students going to university has more than trebled from 4,000 to over 12,000-a-year, with the increase in the number of approved pharmacy schools soaring from 12 to 27 – and still rising.

There are 45,000 pharmacists currently working in the NHS and in community pharmacies, with 2,500 coming on stream each year. However, there are fears that there will not be enough jobs for newly-qualified pharmacists.

There have been calls from the GHP, which is a professional section of Unite, the country