Health minister Eluned Morgan has signalled her support for exploring degree apprenticeships in a debate on how to better support pharmacists in the Welsh parliament.
Speaking in the Senedd on 30 March 2022, Morgan said that pharmacy technician apprenticeships will be available from 2022/2023 onwards.
In response to a number of MSs expressing support for the idea, she added: “I do think it’s worth looking into whether degree apprenticeships could be provided in this [pharmacy] field.”
However, the Welsh government has since told The Pharmaceutical Journal there were “no current plans” to introduce pharmacy degree apprenticeships in Wales, which would allow people to study for a pharmacy degree while working.
The debate was held after the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) met with a number of ministers in early March 2022 to discuss the “worrying results” of the latest RPS 2021 ‘Workforce Wellbeing Survey‘.
A subsequent motion, proposed by the Welsh Conservatives, was debated and unanimously agreed by the Senedd on the 30 March 2022. The motion calls for the Welsh government to provide pharmacies with access to medical records, ensure staff have dedicated protected learning time and to invest in the pharmacy workforce.
During the debate, the concept of pharmacy degree apprenticeships garnered cross-party support. James Evans, Conservative MS for Brecon and Radnorshire, told the assembly that the government should pursue degree apprenticeships into pharmacy with “urgent pace”.
Jack Sargeant, Labour MS for Alyn and Deeside, and Rhun ap Iorwerth, Plaid Cymru MS for Ynys Môn and deputy leader of the party, also showed their support.
Laura Anne Jones, Conservative MS for South Wales East, said: “A good start would be to significantly increase the number of training spots for pharmacists, to support them, to fill the many voids that we see popping up throughout Wales… I think degree apprenticeships for them is a brilliant idea.”
When approached for clarification on its plans, a spokesperson for the Welsh government told The Pharmaceutical Journal on 4 April 2022 that “there are no current plans to develop degree apprenticeships for pharmacists in Wales”.
“The requirements for pharmacist training are set out in legislation and all training courses must be approved by the General Pharmaceutical Council,” they said.
In England, proposals for a pharmacy degree apprenticeship were first put forward in April 2019, although the plans are still in the development stage. There are no current proposals for a similar scheme in Scotland.
In response to the passing of the Senedd motion, Cheryl Way, chair of the RPS’s Welsh Pharmacy Board, said: “We were delighted with the unanimous, cross-party agreement on our calls in Senedd and will continue our positive engagement with the Welsh Government and MSs to make sure the changes that our members need come into practice.”