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Pharmacy students won't pay extra for new foundation training year

Pharmacy students will not have to pay additional fees to undertake the planned foundation training year set to be introduced from 2021, the GPhC and PSNI have said.

This means that the cost of studying to be a pharmacist will not change because of changes to pharmacy training in the UK, the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) and the Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland said in a letter to students last week (September 10).

Pharmacy students entering their fourth year of study, who will apply for training posts that start in the summer of 2021, can continue to do so “through the current systems being used within the different UK countries”, the regulators said.

“MPharm degrees will continue to be awarded after four years and foundation trainees will continue to be employed in their fifth year,” the GPhC and PSNI added.

From next year, pharmacy students in Great Britain and Northern Ireland will all sit the same registration exam, which is expected to be delivered online.

While pre-registration trainees in Northern Ireland this year sat a delayed physical exam on August 11 –  following a postponement of the exam that normally takes place in June as a result of COVID-19  – the GPhC has yet to announce a date for its postponed 2020 registration assessments, which will take place online.

Reforms to enhance “training and skills”

The changes to education are designed to “ensure you and all pharmacists in the future will have the training and skills you need to take on new and extended clinical roles as medicines experts across all sectors from registration”, the regulators told MPharm students in the letter.

The regulators previously explained the intention of replacing the existing pre-registration year with a one-year foundation programme from summer 2021 in a letter published jointly with the different NHS and health education bodies in Great Britain on July 23.

“One aim” of the foundation training year would be to ensure all newly registered pharmacists qualify as independent prescribers from 2021, the regulators said in the letter.

Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) director of education Gail Fleming said the professional body welcomed the announcement that students will not have to pay for the foundation training year.

However, clarification is needed “on what the financial impact will be on future MPharm students as well as confirmation that funding for additional clinical placements in years 1-4 will be available if we are to upskill future graduates to become independent prescribers”, she added.

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