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Initial education and training of pharmacists - reform programme

In January 2021, the GPhC published the revised Standards for the Initial Education and Training of Pharmacists

This marks an exciting moment for the profession, as they provide a set of new learning outcomes that span the whole 5-year initial training period (MPharm degree and the Foundation Training Year) and can link to a continuum of development into post-registration.

These new learning outcomes provide newly qualified pharmacists with the necessary consultation skills and confidence to provide the clinical services expected by patients and the NHS, working across health systems - and will enable pharmacists to be independent prescribers at the point of registration.

By 2026, the aim is for all newly registered pharmacists to be able to independently prescribe medicines.  

Winter 2022/23 update

Our aim is to reform pharmacist education and training pathways, to enable pharmacists to enable them to play a much greater role in providing clinical care from their first day of registration.

Our commitment is supported by major infrastructure changes and investment.

We recognise that change requires everyone’s input and expertise. It will not happen overnight, but along with our partners, we are taking great strides on the journey towards transformation.   

Read this presentation on progress to date and upcoming innovation and funding changes

Developing training across the MPharm and the Foundation Training Year

To support the development of a continuum of education between the MPharm and the foundation training year, we are working with the Pharmacy Schools Council to explore how training activities can be developed in clinical placements during the MPharm. We are also developing a shared approach to prescribing training, and engaging with students and trainees to improve access to pharmacist education and training.

Developing a consistent approach to placement education activities

Together with the Pharmacy Schools Council and employer representatives, we are working on the activities that could be carried out by pharmacy undergraduates while on placement in the pharmacy workplace. This follows the recent announcement that pharmacy has been added to the list of professions eligible for the clinical tariff during undergraduate training. The group is looking at how undergraduate pharmacy students can move from observing tasks, to being entrusted to carry them out with the appropriate level of supervision. This will support students to gain practice-based skills effectively during the MPharm, preparing them for their training year. This will also help employers from across sectors to deliver placements that offer a more consistent approach to supervising and assessing students using entrustable professional activities (EPAs). 

Entrustable professional activities 

What are EPAs?

EPAs are units of professional practice that can be described as responsibilities or discrete tasks that supervisors entrust trainees with, once they achieve adequate competencies. EPAs should be observable, measurable, executed within a designated time frame and suitable for entrustment decisions by qualified personnel. 

How are they being developed?

The University of Bath, working in partnership with other schools of pharmacy in England, are undertaking further research and development work on EPAs for undergraduate pharmacy students.

What does the work consist of?

The work consists of three elements:

  • A research study, informed by a broad range of pharmacy stakeholders, to identify a core set of appropriate and deliverable EPAs for pharmacy undergraduate students that can be used in placements across all pharmacy learning environments.
  • Further qualitative research to determine barriers and enablers to implementing EPAs for pharmacy undergraduate students.
  • Pilots of the use of EPAs in a range of pharmacy settings for undergraduate pharmacists from a range of universities and at a range of levels of practice. 

Next steps? 

The outputs from the research and pilots described above will be shared widely by autumn 2023 to support schools of pharmacy and pharmacy employers to embed placements for undergraduate pharmacists.  Register for IETP Updates to keep up to date. 

Independent Prescribing

The IETP reform will see pharmacists joining the register as independent prescribers in 2026. To support this, we are working with the Pharmacy Schools Council to develop a shared approach to prescribing training in the MPharm and the foundation training year. This will support a smooth transition from the MPharm to year 5. We will also be developing and testing models of prescribing training and assessment in year 5 over the next few years, in preparation for this being brought into the foundation training year in 2025/2026.

Improving access to pharmacist education and training

We commissioned Verve Communications to explore in detail what students and trainees feel either encourages, or presents obstacles to, access routes into professional training. Thank you to all those who took part in our online listening exercise in April. We heard from future trainee pharmacists about access routes to clinical placements through the lens of their experience as carers, students with disabilities, and students from LGBTQI+ and Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic groups. Early feedback indicates that participants welcomed the idea of undergraduate clinical placements and experiencing different settings as part of their placements, so long as there was equity in access.

Further activities

  • Pilot-testing clinical placement models for undergraduate training programmes (MPharm).

  • Delivering the Trainee Pharmacist Foundation Year in 2021-22 – Developing resources to support trainee pharmacists as they transition from undergraduate study into pre-registration training.

  • Expanding access to cross-sector foundation training places via the Trainee Pharmacists in General Practice Programme: Giving trainee pharmacists the opportunity to spend between three and six months in general practice, in conjunction with hospital or community pharmacy foundation training. 

  • Developing the Newly Qualified Pharmacist pathway from 2021/22 – A development pathway for pharmacists in their first year of practice. This pathway responds to the need for a consistently skilled workforce until the IET reforms are fully implemented. Training is designed to integrate with work commitments, complementing existing workplace and postgraduate learning.
  • Working with NHS England & NHS Improvement to develop the Pharmacy Integration Programme.

Please read our statement on the revised standards for the initial education and training of pharmacists at the bottom of this page.  

Subscribe to our monthly updates

To receive news by email about the initial education and training of pharmacists, please subscribe to our monthly IETP Update.

Contact us

Get in touch at pharmacyteam@hee.nhs.uk.