Health Education England (HEE) has committed to training 50 community-based specialist mental health pharmacists as part of the NHS’s workforce plan for 2020/2021.
The ‘NHS People Plan’, published on 30 July 2020 by NHS England and Improvement, lists the training of mental health pharmacists as part of a wider drive to prioritise “continued investment in training the future mental health workforce”.
The long-overdue plan was initially expected to be published in late 2019, after the publication of the interim plan in June 2019, and was expected to cover five years.
However, the 52-page document covers “what the people of the NHS can expect… for the rest of 2020 and into 2021”.
The plan also confirms previous reports that a pharmacy foundation year will replace the current preregistration year from 2021.
It says that changes to the five-year training will create “a sustainable supply of prescribing pharmacists with enhanced clinical and consultation skills”.
“The key elements of the reform will be replacing the current preregistration year with a foundation year, and enhancing clinical experience in initial education and training,” it adds.
“This continuous, educational programme for pharmacists will still be five years in duration, and will link into advanced practice and research training.”
On 28 July 2020, the General Pharmaceutical Council and the four UK chief pharmaceutical officers suggested that the foundation programme would see all newly qualified pharmacists qualify as independent prescribers.
Commenting on the report, Claire Anderson, chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s English Pharmacy Board, said it would “continue working with HEE on proposed changes to preregistration and foundation training, and it’s vital this is taken forwards in discussion with stakeholders”.
“If we are to realise the ambition to create a sustainable supply of prescribing pharmacists, this must be supported by appropriate funding,” she added.
The plan has also committed to providing “practical and emotional support”, such as creating “safe spaces for staff to rest and recuperate”, as well as “psychological support and treatment” that will include piloting ”resilience hubs” in partnership with occupational health programmes.
Anderson said plans to support the health and wellbeing of NHS employees were “welcome”.
“Our members have been telling us about the importance of health and wellbeing support, sufficient rest breaks and protected time, and it’s welcome to see this reflected in the latest part of the ‘People Plan’,” she said.
“COVID-19 has highlighted the real need for pharmacy to be integrated as part of the NHS family, so it’s vital that all pharmacists and staff delivering NHS services can access the right support wherever they might work.”
Speaking at the Royal College of Physicians on 30 July 2020, Matt Hancock, the health secretary, said more details on workforce numbers would be published in the autumn alongside the government’s spending review, with further workforce planning published “after that”.