The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) has called for funding to be put in place to support proposals for foundation training promised in NHS England’s interim workforce plan.
NHS England’s ‘Interim NHS People Plan’, published on 3 June 2019, outlines how Health Education England and NHS England will “explore development” of a foundation training programme for pharmacists to “help enhance the future clinical workforce for primary care networks” by March 2020.
The ‘NHS Long Term Plan’, published in January 2019, said that every primary care network (PCN) across England — which are expected to total more than 5,000 and be in place by the end of June 2019 — would each be funded to employ a clinical pharmacist.
Gail Fleming, director for education and professional development at the RPS, said: “Given the urgency to secure a skilled pipeline of clinical pharmacists to work in PCNs, we would hope that by March 2020 there is a clear proposal in terms of funding and an accepted training model.
“The new PCNs will need support from more than 5,000 pharmacists in the longer term. Meeting this demand will be challenging and require a strategic approach to leadership, education and training to maintain a safe, capable and adaptable workforce.
“Central to this must be a funded model of foundation training and professional development so that pharmacists can build on their initial education and enhance their skills throughout their careers,” she added.
Foundation training plans are currently being produced by the Education Governance Oversight Board, which is made up of the UK’s four chief pharmaceutical officers, the RPS, the General Pharmaceutical Council, universities and employers.
However, while the ‘Interim NHS People Plan’ only affects England, the EGOB’s remit is UK-wide, and as such the board “will be concerned that foundation pharmacist training develops in a united way across the four countries”, said Fleming.
“The RPS can play a key role in this by leading on the development of common training standards and assessments for the UK,” she added.
Also included in the interim workforce plan are promises that hospital pharmacists will extend their practice into primary care by providing consultant pharmacist support; clinical pharmacists in all sectors will carry out more research; senior pharmacists will be piloted as clinical directors of pharmacy and medicines in integrated care systems; and pharmacy technicians will be encouraged to practise at the top of their licence.
More widely, the plan focuses on five areas, including improving the leadership culture, tackling the nursing challenge and making the NHS “the best place to work”.
The plan adds that the NHS will support sustainability and transformation partnerships (STPs) and integrated care systems (ICSs) to develop five-year local workforce plans by November 2019, but they will be kept under regular review and adjusted as necessary through annual operational planning rounds.
The document also outlines plans for NHS boards to support set targets for black and minority ethnic (BME) representation across the workforce by November 2019, including at senior levels, and develop robust implementation plans.
“The ‘NHS Long Term Plan’ is ambitious for pharmacy, but it will be a missed opportunity to improve patient outcomes if the government fails to invest the workforce of the future,” said Fleming.
“The people plan rightly focuses on improving the leadership culture and making the NHS a more positive and inclusive place to work. The health and wellbeing of staff providing NHS services is key to good patient care and all pharmacists, wherever they work, should feel equally supported.”
The final five-year workforce plan is expected to be published later in 2019, alongside a detailed implementation plan for the ‘NHS Long Term Plan’, following the government’s next spending review.