A pilot for a programme to train hundreds of community pharmacists to optimise medicines for people with severe mental health conditions will begin in April 2022, The Pharmaceutical Journal has learned.
Health Education England (HEE) has signed a £120,000 contract with the University of Bradford to train the first cohort of 50 pharmacists to become specialist mental health pharmacists in 2022/2023. The eventual aim is to train 260 specialist mental health pharmacists to work within multidisciplinary community-based mental health teams in England by 2024.
A further 20 pharmacists will be recruited to work in perinatal mental health by the same deadline.
The scheme was first announced in the ‘NHS people plan’, published on 30 July 2020 by NHS England, which said the training of mental health pharmacists is part of a wider drive to prioritise “continued investment in training the future mental health workforce”.
The year-long pilot scheme will see the University of Bradford begin the training at the end of April 2022, with participants from a variety of pharmaceutical backgrounds undertaking ten online learning modules.
Gemma Quinn, the project lead at the School of Pharmacy and Medical Sciences at the University of Bradford, said: “The University of Bradford is passionate about mental health and we are thrilled to be able to deliver this new and exciting pathway.
“The medications that are used in mental health can be so complex and pharmacists need to be involved. So it’s absolutely right that we should be involved from the very beginning of care, helping people to take medicine safely and to get the full effects of those medicines.”
Quinn said that the course will give the participants the knowledge and confidence to play their part in community mental health teams.
“They’re probably going to be the only pharmacist on that team. And they need to be able to fill that role of being the medicines expert with confidence and potentially lead these teams, eventually,” she added.
Roz Gittins, president of the College of Mental Health Pharmacy, welcomed the training. “It’s really exciting and I’m looking forward to seeing the end result. We’re waiting to see more detail in terms of the finalised content,” she said.
“I think to see this as an opportunity to help develop these pharmacy professionals as part of the ‘[NHS] long-term plan’ is really important.”
Gittins explained that upskilling pharmacists and pharmacy technicians is critical to the government’s commitment to improving mental health care and support, adding: “There are psycho-social interventions, but also prescribed interventions that are commonly used [in mental health care]. And as pharmacists, we are experts in medicines. To have those experts in medicines upskilled is obviously really key, so we’re really looking forward to seeing how this works out.”
Aurora Diaz Lopez, pharmacy programme manager for Health Education England, said: “This contract is part of HEE’s continued investment in training the future mental health workforce and expanding education and training posts for the future workforce, including 50 community-based specialist mental health pharmacists.
“This investment is in line with the ‘NHS long-term plan’ and ‘NHS people plan’’s ambition to develop integrated models of primary and community mental health care, to support adults and older adults with severe mental illnesses.”