The number of pharmacy training places in Wales is set to nearly double in the next four years, the Welsh government has announced.
Vaughan Gething, health minister for Wales, said that the increase in the number of preregistration training places, from 120 to 200 places by August 2023, will be backed by a £3.6m funding boost in 2020/2021.
A further funding increase of £1.3m will follow, bringing the total extra funding to support more pharmacy trainees to £4.9m in 2023/2024, Gething said.
The funding will also cover a modernised training programme for pharmacists, and centralised employment for all preregistration trainees under the NHS in Wales. The announcement is part of a Welsh government initiative called ‘Train, Work, Live’, intended to recruit more pharmacists into the profession in Wales.
“Pharmacists play an increasingly important role in the delivery of health care in Wales,” Gething said. “As demand for their clinical skills increases, we must ensure we are able to a train sufficient number of pharmacists to meet the needs of the NHS in Wales in all sectors of pharmacy practice.”
Alongside the funding, Health Education and Improvement Wales (HEIW) has announced that an overhauled training programme will start in 2020 that will see trainees receive clinical placement training in a wider range of settings.
Currently, trainees are prepared to work either in hospitals or community pharmacies, but the new programme will offer the opportunity to work in other areas, such as GP practices.
This comes after Gething announced in February 2017 that preregistration pharmacist training in Wales would be transformed into an integrated community and hospital scheme, following the success of a pilot.
To facilitate the new training programme, the government also announced that all trainees will be employed by the NHS for the final year of their training, regardless of whether they complete the majority of their training in a community pharmacy, a hospital or a GP practice.
The new centralised employment system will allow trainees to move more easily between clinical settings and gain more experience, HEIW said in a statement.
Margaret Allan, pharmacy dean at HEIW, said: “Our vision is to transform the pharmacy workforce in Wales to meet the ever-changing demands of modern day healthcare.
“This funding will be the cornerstone to working collaboratively with NHS partners and placement providers, and modernising our preregistration training programme.”
She added that the new programme “will align NHS training standards with the proposed new initial education and training standards from the General Pharmaceutical Council” and it will mean that “on the first day of registration, pharmacists will have the skills and confidence to work flexibly across sectors and meet the needs of patients”.
Suzanne Scott-Thomas, chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society Welsh Pharmacy Board, said: “Increasing the number of training places and transforming the training of trainee pharmacists prior to registration is a very positive step forward for the NHS and patients in Wales.
“The multi-sector training will underpin and support seamless pharmaceutical care for patients in Wales,” she continued, adding that the announcement will “ensure a sound foundation for pharmacists through multi-sector experience across the NHS”.
Andrew Evans, chief pharmaceutical officer for Wales, added: “Our new training programme will ensure that pharmacists have the appropriate skills both to deliver clinical services and to work flexibly between hospitals, GP practices, community pharmacies and other settings where pharmacy professionals can improve the safety and quality of medicines use.”