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No pre-reg year if foundation programme introduced in 2021

The pre-reg year could be replaced by a one-year foundation programme from summer 2021, NHS England and Improvement (NHSE&I) and Health Education England (HEE) have said.

The foundation programme – which would be introduced across Great Britain – will be considered as the fifth year of a “continuum of pharmacist initial education and training”, according to senior people at NHSE&I and HEE.

While it will be “demanding” to introduce this reform from next year, the change will be beneficial to patients, “the needs of the NHS, and the careers of future pharmacists”, Alan Ryan, HEE's director of national transformational programmes, and Richard Cattell, deputy chief pharmaceutical officer at NHSE&I wrote in a letter last week (July 23).

The reform will be discussed further “by a broad range of stakeholders, led by the General Pharmaceutical Council [GPhC]”, before being implemented

Interim foundation programme

In the meantime, an interim foundation pharmacist programme will be introduced in England only from September for the cohort of pre-registration trainees who will join the GPhC’s provisional register from August 1.

The one-year training scheme will help this year’s cohort of pre-registration trainees – who, due to the COVID-19 pandemic “have not had the full experience necessary for registration” – to “transition to full GPhC registration and beyond” and develop their “ability to achieve high quality outcomes for patients and improve patient safety”, according to the letter.

Reform required

The pandemic offers the “opportunity to accelerate the reform of pharmacist education” at a time when “patients and other health professionals are becoming increasingly reliant on the clinical knowledge and skills of pharmacists”, Mr Ryan and Mr Cattell said.

In order to meet this need, pharmacists require additional training, “in part because their initial education and training does not fully support these needs”, the letter said. In recognition of this, the GPhC will “shortly finalise new regulatory standards for the five years of pharmacist initial education and training”, Mr Ryan and Mr Cattell added.

“This reform is required to standardise the uptake of this additional training, providing future newly qualified pharmacists with the necessary consultation skills and confidence to provide the clinical services expected by patients and the NHS,” they said.

Mark Voce, director of education and standards at the GPhC, told C+D today (July 27) that the reforms to introduce the one-year foundation training will start in July 2021.

“We have now reconvened a working group to inform the final set of revised initial education and training standards for pharmacists and to drive implementation of the standards,” he said.

NHS Education for Scotland told C+D today that representatives from Scotland “will be working with the other countries, the GPhC and key stakeholders on what these proposals mean for the initial education and training period for pharmacists in Scotland.”

A spokesperson for Health Education and Improvement Wales told C+D today that the organisation is “fully sighted and engaged with” the GPhC's plans. “The proposals also align to the Wales vision for pharmacist education and training and the goals of Pharmacy: Delivering a Healthier Wales,” they added.

The GPhC launched a consultation on the “standards for the initial education and training of pharmacists” last year. The consultation, which ran between January and April, revealed that the majority of respondents welcomed the regulator’s proposals to combine the pharmacy degree and pre-registration training.

What do you make of these proposals?

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