The number of pharmacists training to work in GP settings in England increased by 43% in 2020/2021, compared with the year before, data from Health Education England (HEE) show.
In its annual report, published on 19 July 2021, HEE said that 1,094 pharmacists had begun primary care training in 2020/2021, which amounted to 477 more pharmacists than in 2019/2020.
Pharmacists working in primary care networks (PCNs) are required to either have taken, or be enrolled on, an approved 18-month training pathway that qualifies them to prescribe and deliver responsibilities, such as taking on structured medication reviews.
Training was stepped up after reports that PCNs in some areas of the country had struggled to recruit pharmacists with the required experience.
An investigation by The Pharmaceutical Journal revealed that nearly a quarter of PCNs had not claimed NHS funding to hire additional pharmacists as of 31 March 2020.
In July 2019, the government told HEE that it must train 500 pharmacists for roles in general practice by the end of 2019/2020 to provide support for “the wider expansion and transformation of primary care, including the objective for every PCN to have a dedicated clinical pharmacist”.
This target was exceeded with 617 pharmacists entering primary care training that year, according to the annual report.
However, pharmacy representative bodies have previously warned that the “osmotic draw” of pharmacists into PCNs has created a “recruitment and retention crisis” in community pharmacy.
HEE’s report also noted that 2020/2021 was the first year for primary care training for pharmacy technicians, “with approximately 330 commencing training” during the year.
As a result of an underspend by some PCNs in hiring additional roles, including pharmacists, NHS England announced in February 2020 that PCNs were able to hire pharmacy technicians earlier than expected.
Pharmacy technicians working in PCNs are required to be enrolled in, or have qualified from, approved training, such as the Primary Care Pharmacy Educational Pathway or Medicines Optimisation in Care Homes.