Universities in south west of England expand MPharm course to address pharmacist shortage

The University of Bath will offer its MPharm programme at the University of Plymouth, with data showing that community pharmacist workforce shortages in the south west of England are among the highest in the country.
lecture hall of university students

The University of Bath MPharm course will be available at the University of Plymouth from September 2024 as part of a drive to cut pharmacist workforce shortages in the south west of England.

The two universities have worked with NHS England to expand the MPharm programme, following the publication of data showing the south west of England as having the highest level of community workforce shortages in the country.

In August 2023, NHS England published the 2022 ‘Community pharmacy workforce survey’, which revealed that the Somerset Integrated Care System (ICS) area had the highest vacancy rate for community pharmacist roles in the country, with 33% (77 of 237) of full-time equivalent (FTE) positions unfilled, including locum and relief pharmacists.

Bath and North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire ICS area had a vacancy rate of 25% (72 of 284) of FTE positions unfilled, while Devon ICS area vacancy rate was 20% (84 of 418).

The survey also showed that Somerset ICS area had just five FTE foundation pharmacists in post, one of the lowest numbers of trainees in post in England.

Students taking the MPharm course at the University of Plymouth will study in the city, but receive their qualification from the University of Bath.

Commenting on the collaboration, Julian Chaudhuri, pro-vice chancellor (education) at the University of Bath, said: “We are delighted to work with the University of Plymouth to offer this course to students at an additional location.

“This collaboration will give students more opportunities to study a top quality pharmacy course, increase the numbers of pharmacy graduates in the south west, significantly contributing to healthcare within the region,” he said.

Students on the University of Bath’s four-year MPharm degree had the highest pass rate in the UK for the General Pharmaceutical Council’s registration assessment in 2022 and 2023.

John Curnow, deputy vice chancellor (education and student experience) at the University of Plymouth, said: “We’re excited to be part of this partnership between Plymouth, Bath and NHS England.

“Plymouth is already home to more than 4,500 health and social care students, studying everything from medicine and dentistry, to nursing and physiotherapy — working closely with the largest teaching hospital in Devon and Cornwall.

“Adding the pharmacy degree to the options available in Plymouth means we now offer an even broader suite of pathways into careers that will make a tremendously positive difference to the health and wellbeing of people in our region and beyond,” said Curnow.

A system-wide Pharmacy Workforce Project Group was set up in Somerset in February 2022, with the aim of quadrupling the number of pharmacy trainees coming to work in the county by 2026. Somerset received funding from NHS England’s Workforce, Training and Education Directorate (formerly Health Education England), to run the group, which is being led by the local pharmaceutical committee.

Applications for the 2024 MPharm course at the University of Plymouth are now open on its website.

  • This story was amended on 21 December 2023 to correct the vacancy data cited from the 2022 ‘Community pharmacy workforce survey’
Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, December 2023, Vol 311, No 7980;311(7980)::DOI:10.1211/PJ.2023.1.205386

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