Plans to allow pharmacists to retrain as doctors under a fast-track course are still on hold, more than two years after the idea was put forward, The Pharmaceutical Journal has learned.
The idea was originally mooted by the government shortly after Brexit. The UK formally left the EU on 31 January 2020 and, on 9 February 2020, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said it was considering a “flexible” approach to healthcare professionals (HCPs) wishing to switch sectors.
Under EU training standards, HCPs who want to retrain as doctors must complete 5,500 hours of training over a minimum of five years. But the DHSC said that, following Brexit, “newly designed courses could take into account existing qualifications, training and experience, making it easier and quicker for existing healthcare professionals such as physiotherapists or pharmacists to train as doctors”.
However, in response to an enquiry by The Pharmaceutical Journal on 22 April 2022, a spokesperson for the DHSC said that the department had no updates to share at this time.
The proposals drew a mixed response from readers of the journal at the time. In The Pharmaceutical Journal‘s 2020 salary and job satisfaction survey, undertaken a few months after the original announcement, just under a quarter of respondents said they would retrain as a doctor if the fast-track training scheme was introduced.
Speaking in February 2020, when the proposals were originally made public, Sandra Gidley, then president of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS), said that encouraging pharmacists to retrain as doctors could make recruiting pharmacists into primary care networks “even more of a challenge”, and that the Society instead called for “a strategic approach to workforce planning to avoid adding further pressures on already hard-working frontline staff”.
A spokesperson for the RPS said they did not want to comment any further.