Training placements in community pharmacy could be withdrawn if the sector is not fully involved in implementing plans to introduce a five-year integrated pharmacy degree and the reforms are not fully funded, pharmacy bodies have warned.
A trio of community pharmacy organisations — the Company Chemists’ Association, the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies and the National Pharmacy Association — responded jointly to the consultation from the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) on new education standards, saying that the sector’s commitment to training the next generation of qualified pharmacists is taken for granted by NHS workforce planning organisations across the UK.
As a result, the organisations warned that their commitment to offering training placements could be withdrawn if the sector is not closely involved in discussions about the changes.
In their consultation response, published in April 2019, they said: “Placement providers need the fullest picture possible before an informed commitment can be made.
“Health Education England, NHS Education for Scotland and Health Education and Improvement Wales should not assume continued participation or will to provide placements in the absence of clear dialogue.”
Similar concerns about the future security of student placements were raised by the Pharmacy Schools Council in its response to the consultation, which closed on 3 April 2019.
It said: “In the consultation there is no proposal about how the long periods of placement, currently within the preregistration training year … will be funded, managed and quality assured.”
It said it is “unreasonable” to expect employers — which would include NHS trusts as well as community pharmacies — to establish different “relationships and structures” with individual universities under the reforms.
It explained: “It will be highly unlikely that [any one] employer will be working with only one university, rather they would most likely to be working with several. It would be unreasonable for ‘employers’ to have to establish different relationships and structures with different universities.
“A consequence of the GPhC’s proposal is that there might be a cap on the number of students each school of pharmacy could take due to the availability (or lack of) the placement training. Any restriction on numbers will have a big impact on the viability of the degree with the universities.”
The Pharmacy Schools Council also reiterated concerns, first revealed exclusively in The Pharmaceutical Journal in March 2019, that universities may drop MPharm from their undergraduate programme if they are expected to pick up the bill for student placements as part of the reforms.