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Independent prescribing training: which costs are covered?

The provision of independent prescribing training for community pharmacists is in the spotlight across Great Britain, but allocated funding to support professional development varies by nation. C+D investigates 

In recent months, authorities in England, Scotland, and Wales have each announced that they intend to make additional independent prescribing training courses available to pharmacists.  

In May, NHS Education for Scotland (NES) announced it will fund an additional 186 independent prescribing places starting this year, to supplement the 244 places funded in 2021/22.

Meanwhile, C+D reported in April that Health Education England (HEE) hoped to make more than 3,000 funded independent prescribing training places available for courses starting in September, and had invited providers offering General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC)-accredited independent prescribing training to bid for a contract worth up to £13,080,000.


Read more: HEE seeks bids to fund over 3,000 independent prescribing training places


Similarly, C+D reported in December 2021 that the Welsh government had plans to fund independent prescribing training for “at least 60” pharmacists per year under the three-year community pharmacy contract. Community Pharmacy Wales (CPW) has recently confirmed the number of available training spots for community pharmacists will increase to 100.

A CPW spokesperson shared that Health Education and Improvement Wales (HEIW) aims “to have offered everyone an independent prescribing place by 2026, although there will still be training opportunities after that date”.

So, which costs associated with independent prescribing training are covered? From backfill pay to funding for designated prescribing practitioners (DPP), C+D spoke to bodies in each nation to find out.


No backfill pay for England


Dr Matt Aiello, national programmes lead for education reform at Health Education England, said that “backfill” funding – which would cover the time pharmacists spend undertaking training – “is not available for trainees or designated medical practitioners and DPPs [in England] at this time”.

This is “in line with” other NHS-funded independent prescribing training programmes, he explained.

Renewed talks of shortages of DPPs for future independent prescribers followed HEE’s announcement in April about additional independent prescribing training spots.


Read more: Is getting an independent prescribing qualification worth it?


Mr Aiello said HEE is working with “employers and course providers to address challenges around access to, and capacity of, prescriber supervision”.

“A range of options and initiatives [that] focus on expanding supervisor access and capacity across all sectors” are in the works, he said.

DPP shortages affect “all prescriber professions”, he told C+D.


Wales: backfill and “set-up” funding


Wales, meanwhile, has funding set aside for both backfill and DPP costs.

A spokesperson from Community Pharmacy Wales (CPW) told C+D that HEIW will use funds provided by the Welsh government to cover independent prescribing training places.


Read more: Welsh government pumps cash into national pharmacy clinical service


An additional £3,000 will go “towards backfill costs”, which will “release the pharmacists for training”, they said.

Health boards in Wales also each have “a small amount of set-up funding for the independent prescribing service”, the spokesperson said, as part of the Welsh Community Pharmacy Contractual Framework.

Most health boards use this “to support funding for DPPs”, they stated.


Scotland: backfill covered


C+D reported in May that Community Pharmacy Scotland (CPS) had set aside up to £1 million to support funding of the legacy workforce.

This amount will also help support employers with backfill cover while pharmacists attend the training, CPS told C+D at the time.


Read more: Scotland funds extra 186 prescribing places after increased demand


CPS also set up a waiting list for pharmacists looking to undertake independent prescribing training, after it was “inundated” with requests last year.

“Pharmacy owners have allocated funding from their negotiated financial envelope to ensure all community-based pharmacists on the 2021/22 waiting list have the opportunity to undertake this qualification,” CPS CEO Harry McQuillan said.


Winning HEE bids to be announced soon


Education providers had until May 23 to submit their bids to deliver independent prescribing courses in England , but Mr Aiello told C+D that, as of today (June 28), “the procurement process is [still] underway”.

HEE is thus “unable to share commercially sensitive details at this stage”, he explained.

“We will be releasing information around successful bidders as soon as we are legally able.”


Read more: Independent prescribing one of new England pharmacy chief’s main priorities


In his first public address to the pharmacy sector since being appointed to the role, England’s new chief pharmaceutical officer David Webb said making independent prescribing part of pharmacy practice by 2026 was one of his main priorities.

Meanwhile, the GPhC has enabled pharmacists to enrol in an accredited independent prescribing course sooner, after it removed a rule last month (May 12) that previously required them to have at least two years of experience before being able to start this training.

Catch up with C+D's seventh Big Debate, which asked: “Is getting an independent prescribing qualification worth it?”



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