Health Education England (HEE) is inviting bids for a contract that will deliver independent prescriber training to more than 3,000 pharmacists, beginning later in 2022.
Education providers can tender for the contracts, worth up to £13m in total, to provide courses between 1 September 2022 and 31 March 2023.
The training will be open to pharmacists who are employed by primary care networks as part of the additional roles reimbursement scheme (ARRS); pharmacists employed by NHS trusts; and pharmacists (including community and GP pharmacists) who will be supported by the pharmacy integration programme (PhIP).
Funding is being made available for 770 ARRS pharmacists, up to 841 pharmacists working in the NHS managed sector, and up to 1,400 pharmacists eligible through the PhIP.
It will fund independent prescriber pharmacist courses up to a cost of £2,000 per place.
The tender note says that providers who are awarded contracts to provide training will have the opportunity to continue until March 2024 with an optional one-year extension.
The contract bids are being offered by region, with those offering training expected to provide access for pharmacists from both urban and rural areas.
HEE’s announcement follows news in November 2021 that £15.9m would be invested over four years through the PhIP to support pharmacists and pharmacy technicians with professional career development, including independent prescriber training.
In July 2021, The Pharmaceutical Journal revealed that the number of independent prescribing pharmacists more than tripled between 2016 and 2020.
Initial fully funded places for independent prescriber courses opened earlier this year for 327 community pharmacists through nine pharmacy schools across England.
Under the new trainee pharmacist foundation year programme, which has replaced the preregistration year across the UK, pharmacists will ultimately qualify as independent prescribers at the point of registration. However, the first cohort will not graduate until 2026.
Pharmacy bodies, including the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, have warned it was important that the existing workforce was not left behind and offered similar opportunities to gain independent prescribing qualifications.
Ravi Sharma, director for England at the RPS, said: “We welcome the announcement and investment from HEE that it’s currently engaging educational providers to deliver the next round of funded independent prescribing training that will be available from September this year.
“We want to see patient access to independent prescribing pharmacists extended across all areas of practice.
But he added it must be underpinned by sufficient protected learning time within work hours and access to support from designated prescribing practitioners (DDPs).
“That’s why we’re consistent in our calls for fair protected learning time for pharmacy teams, more support for experienced prescribing pharmacists to take on the role of DDPs and greater clinical services to utilise this qualification to support patients and the public.”