Trainee pharmacists have begun the new foundation pharmacy training year, which has been brought in to replace the former preregistration year as part of sweeping reforms to the education and training of pharmacists.
The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) and the UK’s four chief pharmaceutical officers announced in July 2020 that the existing preregistration training year would be replaced from summer 2021 by the new foundation year of training.
As part of the overhaul to pharmacy training, all newly qualified pharmacists will eventually be able to prescribe independently, but the GPhC has said that this training will not feature in the initial foundation year.
Changes to the foundation year are to be introduced gradually, and the initial 2021/2022 foundation year will see progress reports and assessment summaries that were used for preregistration trainees remaining. Training plans that were previously approved for use with preregistration pharmacists will also not need to be replaced. New interim learning outcomes have been introduced by the GPhC and, in England, Health Education England will provide a strategy for assessing trainees against these outcomes.
Graham Stretch, chief pharmacist at the Argyle Health Group across London and clinical director of Brentworth Primary Care Network, who has just welcomed his first foundation trainees, commented: “We all recognise that the training plan had to change.
“All the designated supervisors and educational supervisors are effectively feeling a little bit in the dark,” he said. “But then, on the other hand, we have plenty to be getting on with. We will initially be training around the more operational issues: everything from how the notes work through to how we communicate; getting started with a few examinations and some fairly basic conversations around medication use and prescription management.
“We know that the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) has won the contract to provide the e-portfolio software, so we look forward to seeing that. I don’t think necessarily that the delays to see the e-portfolio, and to get some more solid perspectives on how the actual assessment strategy will work, will impact on [training]. We are optimistic that this will be a better way of looking at measuring the trainees’ progress, but the devil will naturally be in the detail.”
Julie Martin, head of healthcare scientist and pharmacy education, and Wedad El-Khayat, a programme lead for trainee pharmacists, both at University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, said in a joint statement that they welcomed the new standards as “long overdue”.
They added that the pharmacy training team at Southampton has reviewed its training plans against the new outcomes and made slight adjustments.
“Our programme was always quite clinically focused, and we are developing this aspect in particular during the year. We have invested in some more clinical pharmacist training expertise within [our] team as a secondment to support the assessments of the pharmacists in more case-based discussions: a mini-CEX [clinical evaluation exercise], for example.”
Meanwhile, Sahana Sivathasan, a foundation trainee at the Argyle Health Group, commented: “Going from university into the foundation year is obviously quite a big jump. My main hope for this year is just to put everything that we’ve learned into practice, because we’ve not had that practical element [because of the COVID-19 pandemic].
“Being here in practice is very different than being sat at home doing lectures on our laptops,” she added.
Jahin Chowdhury, who is training with Sivathasan, said he and his peers appreciated the multi-sector nature of their training plan. “I’ve worked in community pharmacy before, so being able to see the other side of the field is very exciting,” he said.
“Here, we had the first week at a GP surgery, the second week at a community, and thereafter it alternates. It’s really refreshing to be able to adapt to one place for one week, and then be able to switch to another.”