Salary support funding for NHS preregistration places across England will be cut to 75% from September 2020, Health Education England (HEE) has announced.
In a letter distributed to chief pharmacists in England on 4 January 2019 and seen by The Pharmaceutical Journal, Hazel Smith, national programme lead for the Education Funding programme at HEE, explained that the change in funding was the outcome of a review which had identified variation across the country in the amount of salary support provided to trusts.
She said that HEE had decided that levels of salary support “did not appear to be evidence-based or demand-led and could be challenged as inconsistent and inequitable”.
The cuts have been described as “disappointing”, with one chief pharmacist saying that it will cost them over £70,000 a year.
The aim of the cuts is to ensure that all NHS employed preregistration posts across England will receive the same amount of financial salary support for each preregistration trainee it takes on from September 2020.
But with the majority of English regions currently receiving 100% salary support, the announcement means that many posts will have their support reduced by 25%.
Source: Nic Bunce / The Pharmaceutical Journal
Gail Fleming, director for education and professional development at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, described the news as “disappointing” for the profession, the NHS and patient care.
“Reducing funding for training pharmacists at a time the new NHS ten-year plan calls for pharmacists to play a greater role in healthcare is incoherent. Less money for preregistration training in the NHS will directly impact on the number of pharmacists the NHS can train.
“This will reduce the capacity pharmacy has to help the NHS with huge workforce challenges now and in the future.”
Sue Ladds, chief pharmacist at University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, said that the ten preregistration places in her trust are currently funded at 100%, so will suffer a 25% reduction.
“[The cut] will mean we will have to find funding from within the trust for an additional 2.5 working time equivalent, band 5 [posts] — about £72,000 per year — to maintain our ten trainees posts,” she said.
Nigel Ratcliffe, chair of the Pharmacy Schools Council and former head of the pharmacy school at Keele University, said the decision was made with “little” notice and that he was not aware of what consultation has taken place to explore the decision.
“This decision is with little notice and will of course generate uncertainty for current students [in their third year or early into their four-year course] surrounding their preregistration placing and its funding.
“Together with the consultation announced [on 9 January 2019] by the General Pharmaceutical Council regarding the proposed New Initial Education and Training Standards for Pharmacists, it is certain that those interested in a career as a pharmacist, who may be considering applying to university, will be seeking greater clarification.”
HEE said that the money saved will be reinvested “to ensure improved impact” and that it would be collaborating with the profession and employers to ensure that “an effective national reinvestment plan can be implemented”.
HEE said that its intention was to have a reinvestment plan consulted upon by September 2019. Options for reinvestment include placement support, supporting integration of preregistration training and improving quality and expansion of placements, it said.
“We will strongly advocate for these to be invested into vital frontline training for the profession at this critical time,” Fleming added.
According to HEE, the cut will affect preregistration trainee pharmacists in NHS HEE funded placements. These trainees are predominately placed in hospitals but are also working within mental health trusts and in a small number of joint posts with clinical commissioning groups and general practice.
Calum Pallister, director of finance at HEE, said: “HEE is working with the affected employers and the profession to review the reinvestment of this funding which will support the front line expansion of training for the pharmacy workforce, ensuring that it has the right skills and knowledge to provide patients in the NHS with the highest quality of care, directed by the ambitions in the [NHS] Long-Term Plan.
“A significant number of employers receive only 75% funding reflecting that they already benefit from a contribution to service from these employees. Harmonisation of salary support arrangements for preregistration trainee pharmacists and other professions across the NHS will ensure HEE has a fairer, simpler, transparent and more consistent approach in which trainees for eligible professions receive the equal amounts of funding across England.”
- This article was updated on 11 January 2019 to include a quote from Health Education England and to clarify which preregistration placements would be affected by the cut