The group of pharmacy employers behind proposals for pharmacy degree apprenticeships has begun talks on updating the plans, following a delay because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The group — including Boots, LloydsPharmacy, Rowlands and Well — met in early June 2021 to discuss how pharmacy apprenticeships could work, including looking at the ‘end-point assessment plan’ for apprenticeships.
Although listed as one of the organisations providing “input and advice” to the development group, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) was not at the meeting. Gail Fleming, director for education and professional development at the RPS, said: “We believe that any discussions regarding the design, feasibility and suitability of a pharmacy degree apprenticeship should be taking place as part of the wider initial education and training programme, rather than outside of it.”
Following the meeting, a statement from Skills for Health, the body which is facilitating the development of pharmacy apprenticeships on behalf of Health Education England, said the development group wanted to “reassure” the sector that an agreed apprenticeship standard would include the full MPharm degree and the one-year integrated preregistration period; and that entry onto the apprenticeship programme would be dictated by the MPharm degree element of the programme.
The statement also said that participating employers would be responsible for setting the salary for any of their apprentice employees joining the programme.
“As with other professional apprenticeship programmes, due to the significant investment that will be required by the employer to support the method of delivery, we would expect salaries to be competitive in order to both attract and retain individuals to the programme,” it said.
An accompanying ‘frequently asked questions’ document, produced after the employer group meeting by Skills for Health, said that once the proposal, standard and end point assessment plan for pharmacy apprenticeships had been approved, a funding band would be allocated to represent the maximum amount that could be drawn from the apprenticeship levy to contribute to the overall cost of delivery.
“The maximum funding band amount is £27,000 however it is not guaranteed that the apprenticeship will achieve the maximum funding available. The development group are currently exploring other funding mechanisms to support the overall cost of delivery,” it said.
An apprenticeship levy must be paid by firms with an annual pay bill of more than £3m. They must pay 0.5% of their annual pay bill.
A spokesperson for Skills for Health told The Pharmaceutical Journal that a revised timeline and proposed consultation period for pharmacy apprenticeships was “yet to be agreed”.
Background to pharmacy apprenticeships proposal
Pharmacy apprenticeships were first proposed by the Pharmacy Apprenticeship Trailblazer Group as part of a ten-day consultation, which was launched on 10 April 2019. Following criticism, the plans were halted after arms-length government organisation, the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education, said the trailblazer group should be expanded to include representatives from the wider pharmacy industry.
In October 2019, a revamped version of the proposals was announced, with the group saying that it would take into account the “issues and concerns” raised, and agreeing that “more transparency in the process is needed and further engagement through a longer consultation period is required”.
In January 2020, it was announced that development of the proposed pharmacy degree apprenticeship had been paused for a second time to allow “misconceptions” about degree apprenticeships to be addressed.
And, in June 2020, a spokesperson for Skills for Health told The Pharmaceutical Journal that a meeting scheduled for 1 July 2020, to discuss the next stage in progressing pharmacy degree apprenticeships, had been cancelled owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.