A cut of up to 25% in salary support for NHS preregistration trainees, announced by Health Education England (HEE) in January 2019, will be “paused” for one year, according to a letter sent to hospital chief pharmacists on 19 February 2019.
The letter, seen by The Pharmaceutical Journal, from Hazel Smith, national programme lead for HEE’s Education Funding Reform Programme, promises to consider the consequences of its funding decision and to look at ensuring that it will not reduce the number of pharmacy graduates entering the profession.
Smith wrote in the letter that HEE now wants to “focus on informing recommendations for the implementation of the change in salary support from 2021–2022 intake”. HEE also plans to look into “how any funds released from the change are best reinvested in the pharmacy workforce”.
HEE told chief pharmacists in January 2019 that salary support for preregistration places would be cut to 75% for placements beginning in September 2020 to ensure that all NHS employed preregistration posts would receive the same level of funding. As most regions in England currently receive 100% salary support, this would mean that many posts would have had their funding cut by a quarter.
In the letter, Smith acknowledged that the publication of the ‘NHS Long-Term Plan’, which by some estimates could create 6,000 pharmacist posts to be filled, meant that a final proposal to HEE on supporting NHS preregistration places must be something that “can be endorsed by the chief pharmacist as coherent with the broader professional vision”.
Smith wrote that it was “imperative that we continue to look to maximise the recruitment of students into all the preregistration trainee pharmacist programmes across trusts and community services”, and added that employers were asked to “take an optimistic view of training capacity for entry into the national Oriel recruitment system”.
A roundtable discussion event to consider the future of funding preregistration places will be held on 14 March 2019, the letter said, and representatives from the pharmacy community will be invited to take part via HEE’s pharmacy deans. Following this round of engagement, a revised equality impact assessment will be undertaken. HEE intends, Smith wrote, to complete the work by June 2019, at which point final recommendations will be considered by the HEE Finance Committee.
Gail Fleming, director for education and professional development at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS), said she was “pleased that HEE has listened to the concerns raised by the RPS and others across the pharmacy profession”.
“Medicines safety will be a key part of delivering the ‘NHS Long-Term Plan’ and, as we ask pharmacists to do more, this needs to be underpinned by a strategic approach to training the workforce,” she said.
“I look forward to working with HEE and others in the profession so that proposed changes in future can best support patient care.”
HEE told The Pharmaceutical Journal that it had decided to halt the introduction of cuts to listen to “key stakeholders”.
A spokesperson for HEE said: “We want to continue to hear their views on the proposed changes, make sure that they are clear about what it means and minimise impact to graduates moving into the profession. We also want to make sure that this fits in with the vision for pharmacy as set out in the ‘NHS Long-Term Plan’. Stakeholders are key to this process and we are keen to make sure they are fully involved.”