Pharmacists to be offered training to become doctors, NHS England chief executive says

Following Brexit and subsequent deregulation to create “a more flexible” NHS, pharmacists may be able to transition to becoming doctors through extra training.

Busy GP waiting room

Pharmacists are set to be given the opportunity to become doctors through extra training, Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, has said.

Speaking at NHS England’s Health and Care Innovation Expo in Manchester on 4 September 2019, Stevens said that pharmacists would be able to become doctors with additional training, following a probable loosening of professional regulatory rules after Brexit.

He added that this would create “a more flexible, more permeable” NHS organisation.

His comments come as Sajid Javid, the chancellor, committed to increasing the Health Education England (HEE) budget for 2020/2021 — including £150m for continuing professional development — in his annual spending review, which was also announced on 4 September 2019.

Stevens said the HEE budget presented a “more realistic settlement for education and training budgets”. He added that the extra funding was “welcome” because while the NHS has recruited 100,000 additional staff over the past five years, “we still have 100,000 vacancies”.

“We are going to have to do more to look after the staff we currently have across the health service,” he said. “We also need more routes into training. We need to become a more flexible, more permeable organisation.”

He continued: “We’re going to have to use some of the new flexibilities that we may have if we’re not subject to some of the EU professional regulation rules, to think about, for example, opportunities for pharmacists, who after all have done four years’ worth of clinical training, if they wish to convert or add on to become qualified doctors.”

Sandra Gidley, president of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS), said the RPS wanted to keep pharmacists delivering the unique work that they do on behalf of patients.

”I could have applied to medical school, but I’m proud to say that my only plan was to become a pharmacist,” she said.

“Simon Stevens would be better advised to look at how NHS England can make better use of pharmacists and their skills.”


Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, September 2019, Vol 303, No 7929;303(7929):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2019.20207031

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