In January 2021, the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) published the revised Standards for the Initial Education and Training of Pharmacists. These new standards herald many important changes to:
- strengthen supervision support, and collaborative working between higher education institutions, statutory education bodies and employers.
- provide greater emphasis on equality, diversity and inclusion to combat discrimination and deal with health inequalities.
The fifth-year of the initial education and training of pharmacists is now called the foundation training year. This takes place after pharmacy students graduate with their MPharm degree, unless they have opted to participate in a 5-year MPharm with integrated training. It consolidates their initial learning and education, offers on-the-job, practical training in a clinical setting or settings, enabling trainee pharmacists to build upon their pharmacy knowledge, understanding, skills and behaviours, and previous experience, and apply them to enhance their knowledge and skills in preparation for registration.
GPhC interim learning outcomes
The revised standards for the initial education and training of pharmacists (IETP) introduced a new set of learning outcomes that cover the full five years of education and training.
A key development in the revised learning outcomes is the inclusion of pharmacist independent prescribing. By Summer 2026, all newly registered pharmacists will be able to independently prescribe medicines from their first day of registration. Universities are currently developing their MPharm courses to incorporate independent prescribing learning outcomes, so that graduates that enter the 2025/26 training year will be prepared for the inclusion of prescribing training and assessment in their foundation year. Until then, an interim set of learning outcomes are in use that do not include independent prescribing.
All foundation training sites are required by the GPhC to use the interim learning outcomes from 2021/22. See GPhC Standards for the initial education and training of pharmacists – Interim learning outcomes for further information.
Interim learning outcomes
From July 2021 trainee pharmacists are assessed against the GPhC interim learning outcomes. These describe the knowledge, skills and attributes a trainee must demonstrate by the end of their foundation training year and reflect current pharmacy practice. These learning outcomes are ‘interim’ because the GPhC recognise the amount of time training providers need to make changes and to take account of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The interim learning outcomes do not cover independent prescribing, which will be introduced later on.
The revised standards have introduced new terminology for key roles in the foundation training year. Here is a quick guide to the most common roles you will encounter:
- Trainee pharmacist: An individual who is undertaking their foundation training year. Trainee pharmacist learning resources can be found at our dedicated website.
- Designated supervisor: The person(s) responsible for coordinating the trainee pharmacist’s supervision. They will oversee their progress and sign-off the trainee’s competence at the end of the foundation training year. Designated supervisors must be registered pharmacists. Designated supervisors will also find more information on our dedicated webpage.
- Collaborator: This is an umbrella term for practice supervisors, workplace supervisors, clinical supervisors and ticketed supervisors (in the E-portfolio). Trainee pharmacists may be supervised by a range of pharmacy and other health professionals, as well as their designated supervisor, in a variety of settings. There must be agreed systems for supervision in place in all practice environments to make sure safe, person-centred care is delivered at all times. All supervisors must be trained and appropriately experienced to act as supervisors as described in the GPhC Standards for the initial education and training of pharmacists.
- Educational programme director (EPD), Educational lead, Training lead: The person leading the education and development of trainee pharmacists within their organisation.
- Employer: A person or an organisation who directly employs the trainee pharmacist.
Our role in pharmacist foundation training
Pharmacist foundation training is designed to give trainee pharmacists the support, direction, information and resources they need to bridge the transition from studying to registering as pharmacists. The GPhC has set out our role in quality managing NHS England commissioned foundation training sites in England. In addition, we are supporting trainee pharmacists and their supervisors by developing new resources for training sites. These include a practice-based assessment strategy against the GPhC interim learning outcomes, assessment activities, assessment tools, an E-portfolio, virtual learning and information resources. These resources will be used to quality assure the foundation training and assessment of all trainee pharmacists in England.
Using our resources
The NHS England Foundation Trainee Pharmacist Assessment Strategy is designed to support the practice-based assessment component of foundation training and practice-based sign-off of the GPhC interim learning outcomes by the designated supervisor. An executive summary of the Assessment Strategy is also available.
The assessment strategy provides:
- A range of practice-based assessment activities for trainee pharmacists to complete and map to the interim learning outcomes which, as a whole, support the provision of evidence that they are demonstrating all the interim learning outcomes.
- Assessment tools which are used to record the practice-based assessment activities and map them to the relevant interim learning outcomes within the HEE trainee pharmacist foundation training year E-portfolio.
This process allows the designated supervisor to determine when each interim learning outcome has been satisfactorily demonstrated, supporting and assuring the final sign-off of their trainee.
The foundation Trainee Pharmacist Assessment Activities and Tools Guide provides detailed information about the assessment activities a trainee is expected to undertake during their foundation training, including an indicative mapping of each activity against the GPhC interim learning outcomes for the initial training and education of pharmacists. A Visual mapping of the assessment activities is also available.
You can find all documents at the bottom of the page, while the video below gives an overview of the assessment strategy and how it works.
Please note: Health Education England merged with NHS England in April 2023. Additionally, minor revisions have been made to the Assessment Strategy and Assessment Activities since this video was recorded.
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Please check the Frequently Asked Questions below. If you have more questions to ask, please drop us a line at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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For FAQs relating to the E-portfolio please visit the E-portfolio and downloadable resources webpage.
Is the Assessment Strategy mandatory for all trainee pharmacists?
The strategy, assessment tools, E-portfolio and resources are available to all training sites, regardless of sector, and is designed to be suitable in all sectors of practice. It is mandatory for all NHS England commissioned training sites but not for other training sites at present. However, we are encouraging and supporting all training sites to engage with and use these resources to support a consistent approach to the assessment of trainees, and give designated supervisors increased confidence in signing off trainees against the GPhC interim learning outcomes at the appropriate level.
Are the assessment tools mandatory?
While the assessment tools are not mandatory, we are making them available to all training sites in England to support a consistent approach to the assessment of trainees, and give designated supervisors increased confidence in signing off trainees against the GPhC interim learning outcomes at the appropriate level.
Can supervised learning events be failed?
No, a supervised learning event (SLE) cannot be ‘failed’. An SLE is a structured assessment tool that you and your supervisor use to record and reflect on your performance of a practice-based assessment activity, such as a patient consultation or responding to a medicines query, to record which GPhC interim learning outcomes it provides evidence for, and agree your next developmental steps in the form of Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound (SMART) actions.
Together, these support your formative learning and development and build a matrix of evidence against the interim learning outcomes.
Your designated supervisor may determine that the completed assessment activity does not provide sufficient evidence against one or more of the GPhC interim learning outcome(s) that you have claimed in the assessment tool (such as an SLE). If this happens, your designated supervisor will discuss with you whether to repeat the assessment activity or complete an alternative assessment activity which will provide evidence for those interim learning outcomes. The SMART actions that you develop with your supervisor as part of each assessment activity will help you to complete any learning and development to reach the required level.
This Assessment activities guide indicates which learning outcomes each assessment activity is expected to, or may, provide evidence for. It may be that you and your designated supervisor feel that an assessment activity also provides evidence for a learning outcome that is not mapped within the assessment activities guide. This is fine, and we would welcome feedback when this situation arises so we can continually improve the guide and resources. Please contact us at email@example.com
How does the assessment strategy meet the requirement of an interim learning outcome being demonstrated at the ‘Does’ level of Miller’s triangle (‘repeatedly and reliably’) if only one of each assessment activity needs to be completed?
The GPhC interim learning outcomes must be demonstrated at the appropriate level of Miller’s Triangle. Currently, for the foundation training year, most must be demonstrated at ‘Does’ level: that means repeatedly and reliably in an everyday setting.
Each assessment activity is intended to provide evidence for several interim learning outcomes. This is set out in the Assessment activities guide and in the separate Visual mapping of the assessment activities document.
Completion of one of each of the assessment activities during your foundation training year is designed to provide multiple pieces of evidence against each interim learning outcome.
Your designated supervisor will then use their professional judgement to assess when you have successfully demonstrated each interim learning outcome at the required level of Miller’s triangle and sign it off within your E-portfolio.
Do the trainee have to map their completed assessment activities to the GPhC interim learning outcomes?
Yes, you are required to map each completed assessment activity to the relevant learning outcomes. This is achieved using the assessment tools within your E-portfolio. You can use the Assessment activity guide or the Visual mapping of the assessment activities document to find out which learning outcomes each activity is anticipated to, or may, provide evidence for.
How many pieces of evidence do trainees need to provide for each GPhC interim learning outcome?
Assessment activities are designed to map to the GPhC interim learning outcomes as described in the Assessment activity guide or the Visual mapping of the assessment activities document and, as an entity, support the provision of evidence that you demonstrate all the learning outcomes.
You are required to demonstrate most of the learning outcomes at the ‘Does’ level of Miller’s Triangle, which means that you are demonstrating an outcome ‘repeatedly and reliably’ in an everyday setting.
For this reason, the range of assessment activities are designed as a whole, to provide multiple pieces of evidence against each interim learning outcome. Your designated supervisor is expected to use their professional judgement to decide whether you have sufficiently met each interim learning outcome.
When will independent prescribing be included in the Foundation training year?
The GPhC anticipate that this aspect of the initial education and training standards will be fully implemented for the 2025/26 foundation training year.
We continue to work with the GPhC on this, and more information will be shared as it becomes available.
What support will be given to current pharmacists to become independent prescribers?
Over 9000 registered pharmacists in England are already independent prescribers. However, we have not forgotten the existing pharmacy workforce in terms of education and training developments.
Opportunities for independent prescriber training for pharmacists are available for registered pharmacists who meet the eligibility criteria.
Find out more on the HEE Pharmacy Independent Prescribing webpage.
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How much are trainee pharmacists aware of these changes? Has this been covered at the end of their undergraduate degree?
Yes. We have run a series of webinars with MPharm and Year 4 students in partnership with the General Pharmaceutical Council. We have also worked with the Schools of Pharmacy and the GPhC to cascade information to all their students via email, and to promote recent communications by the GPhC. We continue to work closely with the Pharmacy Schools Council to start making changes to the initial education and training of pharmacists.
What steps are being taken to inform the general public of the exciting changes happening to the pharmacist profession?
Our focus so far has been on informing students, trainees, employers, designated supervisors and pharmacy professionals about the exciting changes that are taking place in initial education and training of pharmacists. In the next phase, we will look for opportunities to highlight these exciting changes to the general public, including through our websites.
In the meantime, we continue to develop our work with Health Careers, promoting pharmacy as a career of choice with school children and school leavers.