Several UK universities are considering introducing MPharm courses, the Pharmacy Schools Council (PhSC) has said in its response to NHS England’s ‘Long-term workforce plan’.
The plan, which was published on 30 June 2023, committed to increasing pharmacist training places by 50% over the next eight years, to around 5,000 by 2032/2033.
In its response to the plan, published on 4 July 2023, the PhSC said that greater capacity in all pharmacy sectors will be needed to accommodate placements for the increased number of future undergraduate students, adding that universities would need extra funding to provide these placements.
“Indications are that several universities are planning on establishing new MPharm courses over the coming years,” the response said.
However, the PhSC warned that the NHS’s proposals for an accelerated four-year medicine degree for other healthcare professionals, including pharmacists, “could potentially undo the gains in the pharmacist workforce delivered elsewhere in the plan”.
In September 2019, NHS England said it was considering a “flexible” approach to medical training that would enable pharmacists to retrain as doctors on a fast-tracked course, following the UK’s exit from the EU.
This suggestion was reiterated in the NHS’s long-term workforce plan, which committed to exploring “a shortened medical degree programme” for some existing healthcare professions.
Katie Maddock, chair of the PhSC and head of the School of Pharmacy and Bioengineering at Keele University, said: “We all want the workforce to get the support it needs to deliver excellent patient care amid the changing health needs of the population — and implementing the plan will not be without its challenges.
“Placement capacity, particularly at undergraduate level and around prescribing, for instance, will be an important issue, as well as long-term funding.
“We strongly encourage the government to consult heads of pharmacy schools, and the PhSC on delivering its plan, and we look forward to working productively together to address the challenges that emerge.”
Commenting on the accelerated medical degree for existing healthcare professionals, Latifa Patel, workforce lead at the British Medical Association, said on 30 June 2023 that it is “untested, and must not mean a two-tier system of doctors”.
“Large questions again remain about who will support the training of doctors coming via this route,” she said.