Guidance allowing GP practices and primary care networks (PCNs) to act as lead employers for foundation trainees in England has been welcomed by pharmacy leaders, despite concerns from the British Medical Association (BMA).
Historically, only hospitals and community pharmacies have been able to employ foundation trainees, while GP practices were only able to take foundation trainees on secondments under a memorandum of understanding with their employers.
Under changes announced in a webinar hosted by the Primary Care Pharmacy Association (PCPA), held in January 2024, the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) has recognised GP practices and PCNs as “patient-facing” training settings, making them eligible to be the lead employer for foundation pharmacist trainees from 2025.
Speaking on the PCPA webinar, Atif Shamim, NHS England pharmacy dean for London, said: “Any employer can be the employee of the foundation trainee pharmacist. This was not the case historically, but as long as the training programme meets all of the learning outcome specifications, any employer in general practice or PCNs can take on a trainee pharmacist.”
However, the BMA has expressed concerns over the change. In a statement, Katie Bramall-Stainer, chair of the BMA’s GP committee, said: “Community pharmacists and their teams support many GP practices against the backdrop of huge workload and workforce pressures across primary care.
“We know that, particularly, community pharmacy is also facing a significant workforce crisis, so this initiative will hinge on whether there are enough staff to implement it. What we need are tried and tested mechanisms for pharmacy and GP teams to link up in supporting care across the system, not risking duplication of administration.”
Heidi Wright, policy and practice lead for England at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, said: “We welcome the decision to allow GP/PCNs as lead employers for foundation trainee pharmacists as this move fosters equal opportunity and contributes to the well-rounded professional development of pharmacists by providing exposure to various healthcare environments.
“This follows the decision by GPhC and NHS England to extend the foundation training grants to GP/PCNs, which are also now classified as ‘patient-facing settings’.”
Aamer Safdar, chair of education and development at the Guild of Healthcare Pharmacists, told The Pharmaceutical Journal that it was important for trainees to have access to a variety of settings to complete their foundation trainee year.
He said: “The fact that the GPhC has recognised new sectors, such as GPs and PCNs, as patient facing is important in allowing trainees in these areas.
“This is a positive move to enable as many trainees as possible to have training, particularly in prescribing which will be the norm from 2026.”
He added that having lead employer status is “also important for hospital trusts”.
The NHS-wide recruitment portal Oriel is open for training sites to register between January 2024 and March 2024.
Training sites must confirm that they can provide access to a designated training practitioner and a prescribing learning environment.