The University of Leicester has announced that it will provide an MPharm course from September 2024 to tackle what it says is the UK’s “dire need” for pharmacists.
The MPharm course has been provisionally accredited by the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC), and a spokesperson for the university told The Pharmaceutical Journal that it plans to take between 30 and 40 students in the first year.
It will then review the intake figures annually “as the programme develops and we progress through the accreditation process with the GPhC”.
Students on the new MPharm course will spend 40 weeks in clinical placements, working with pharmacy teams across the Midlands in community pharmacies, hospitals and GP surgeries. They will also have the opportunity to complete a research project or overseas internship.
The ‘NHS long-term workforce plan’, published on 30 June 2023, committed to increasing pharmacy training places by nearly 50% to around 5,000 places by 2031/2032 “to meet the demand for pharmacy services”.
Pharmacists have been on the UK government’s shortage occupation list since March 2021.
David Wright, professor of health services research and head of the school of healthcare at the University of Leicester, said: “With a rise in people accessing the ever-growing range of pharmacy services and the projected number of new job openings in the profession, it is clear to see the UK is in dire need of newly qualified pharmacists.
“Given the need for more pharmacists who can take responsibility for aspects of patient care, including the prescribing of medicines, we have worked quickly and closely with patients, carers and employers to design a new and innovative MPharm programme at Leicester.”
When the ‘NHS long-term workforce plan’ was published, a response from the Pharmacy Schools Council said that several UK universities were considering introducing MPharm courses, adding that “greater capacity in all pharmacy sectors will be required to accommodate placements for future undergraduate students”.
The University of Bath announced in December 2023 that it will offer its MPharm programme at the University of Plymouth, as part of a drive to cut pharmacist workforce shortages in the south west of England.
In October 2023, Bangor University said it had also begun the MPharm accreditation process with the GPhC. A spokesperson for the university said that it expects the first intake of students by September 2025 at the earliest.
Applications for the 2024 MPharm course at the University of Leicester are now open on its website.
The University of Leicester also launched a distance-learning course for pharmacist independent prescribers in September 2022.