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Help or hindrance?: GP practices and PCNs to be paid to train pharmacists

The Primary Care Pharmacy Association (PCPA) has announced that both general practices and primary care networks (PCNs) will be eligible for “lead employer” trainee pharmacist funding from 2025/26.

PCNs and GP practices are now considered “patient-facing” by the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) and NHS England (NHSE), the PCPA announced in a webinar this week (January 9).

This means that starting from 2025, practices and PCNs can “be the employer of (a) foundation trainee pharmacist”, it said.

Webinar slides published by the membership association revealed that there will be “harmonisation of funding for training sites across all sectors” from 2025.

Read more: Pharmacies hosting foundation trainees to be paid £26.5k a year from 2025

This means that GP practices, PCNs and community pharmacies are all eligible for “lead employer” funding – which will be £26,500 a year in funding per trainee from next year – as well as access to an NHSE-funded training course.

Previously, NHSE had announced that the funding would be available to community pharmacies to contribute to “all costs of hosting a trainee including supervision, administration and salary costs”.

It said in November that pharmacies hosting 2025/26 students carrying out “strongly encouraged” multi-sector rotation placements could use “a portion of the funding to pay another organisation”.

Read more: Pharmacists as leaders: A journey we should all be on to help the DPP shortage

In this week’s webinar, the PCPA clarified that requirements for hosting a trainee pharmacist include having access to a “designated prescribing practitioner” (DPP), a “designated supervisor”, a “prescribing learning environment” and a “setting that is supervised by a GPhC registrant”.

All trainee pharmacists must also be recruited through Oriel or the National Recruitment Scheme (NRS) for 2025/26, it said.


“Another kick in the teeth”


Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp) chief executive Dr Leyla Hannbeck said that “many in the sector” had reported that trainee booking platform Oriel is “reducing the chances for having a pre-reg in community pharmacy considerably”.

Dr Hannbeck told C+D yesterday (January 10) that the fact that community pharmacy is at a disadvantage when it comes to access to DPP in comparison to other parts of the profession is “another kick in the teeth for the community pharmacy network”.

Read more: Where are all the designated prescribing practitioners?

She said that this “will simply make matters worse” and “augment the workforce issues” in the sector, adding that it was an example of “decision-makers simply not valuing community pharmacy”.

"It has been a disaster waiting to happen with no one listening to the arguments regarding the problems," she added.


“A two-tier situation”


Speaking to C+D last week (January 4), the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) said that it will be a “huge step forward” when “all newly qualified pharmacists are independent prescribers” (IPs) from 2026.

However, NPA policy manager Helga Mangion stressed that “the current scarcity of DPPs is a rate limiting factor” as “the pool of current IPs who could undertake this crucial supervisory role in community pharmacies is very shallow”.

Read more: Cross-sector training no silver bullet for retaining community pharmacy staff

And she warned that stakeholders must “come together quickly to overcome the barriers to being a DPP in the community sector”.

Ms Mangion said that the NPA is “seeking avoid a two-tier situation in which IPs predominate in the hospital sector but have a limited presence in the community”.

And the NPA added yesterday that with a “larger number of placement offerings, chances are that a number of community pharmacy places will remain vacant”.


Could “benefit” independents


But speaking to C+D yesterday about the reclassification of practices and PCNs as “patient facing”, independent contractor Olivier Picard said that “making some funding available” could be helpful and “will probably benefit independent [pharmacies]”.

He added that many independents have got “good connections with GP surgeries” but that they “often face reluctance from local practices to take on their employees” because of the “cost for the practice to support the pharmacist”.

Read more: ‘Giddy with excitement’: Why I returned to community pharmacy from GP

Well pharmacist Ben Merriman, who last month announced he was returning to community pharmacy after more than five years in general practice, echoed Mr Picard’s support for the announcement.

He told C+D that GP practices being able to “claim payment” for training pharmacists would “help develop our future pharmacists” and ensure their learning is “as well-rounded as possible”.

Read more: Making the most of the IP course

Mr Merriman said that working in both environments had given him “a breadth of knowledge” that has “definitely benefited” him.

He added that he is “looking towards” becoming a DPP himself “for 2025”.


“To the advantage of community pharmacy"


PCPA president and pharmacist Dr Graham Stretch told C+D today (January 11) that “it is to the advantage of community [pharmacy] to work jointly with [GP practices and PCNs] to deliver the DPP prescribing training required from 2025”.

This is because GP practices and PCNs are prescribing environments that now employ “more than 10,000 pharmacy professionals” and have a concentration of prescribers eligible to deliver DPP supervision, alongside the requirement to train pharmacists jointly, he said.


Practices and PCNs “cannot be a single sector provider” of pharmacist training as learning outcomes “include competencies that only be attained in a registered pharmacy or hospital dispensary”, he added.


Read more: University of Wolverhampton cancels IP course with ‘less than a week's notice’


And from 2026/27, all training programmes must include “at least one other sector” so single sector community or hospital training will also no longer be possible from 2026 and sectors “will all need to cooperate and offer multi-sector programs”, he told C+D.


“In short, this update allowing GP/PCN to be lead employer will mean we are able to share or entirely bear the cost of employment for the first time [and] joint training will facilitate IP training and crucially offer a rich experience for our trainees,” Dr Stretch said.


“After 10 years of providing joint training for scores of joint community/GP trainees, I can vouch for the benefit of this model, and over this time more than 50% of the trainees have remained in community practice thereby providing a sustainable workforce,” he added.



DPP access an “ongoing concern”


Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) England board chair Tase Oputu told C+D that the RPS welcomes “the news that GP practices and PCNs can now receive funding for hosting trainee pharmacists”.

She said that the membership body acknowledged “the potential challenge” some independent community pharmacies may face “in meeting the requirement for DPP access”.

Read more: NHSE launches funded community pharmacy prescribing supervisor training

Ms Oputu added that the pharmacy body advocates for “increased support for community pharmacies in recruiting and training DPPs”, which “will not only address current challenges but contribute to a more inclusive and comprehensive training environment for future pharmacists".

Meanwhile, Pharmacy Defence Association (PDA) director of policy Alison Jones also told C+D yesterday that “issues around the number of DPPs to support trainee pharmacists has been an ongoing concern”.

Read more: What does the NHS workforce plan really mean for pharmacy staffing issues?

She added that “workplace pressures faced by all pharmacists” and “a lack of incentives for pharmacists to step forward and take on the extra responsibility” means that “the capacity of pharmacist independent prescribers who could potentially become DPPs is also an issue”.

“Developing a robust pipeline of DPPs across all sectors of practice should have been a priority when the changes in [the initial education and training of pharmacists] were first planned”, Ms Jones added.

Read more: HEE to fund 3,000 independent prescribing places in 2023/24

Company Chemists’ Association (CCA) chief executive Malcolm Harrison told C+D today (January 11) that the organisation welcomed the increase in funding for foundation trainee pharmacists from 2025/26 and the ability for pharmacies to use a proportion of it to pay for cross-sector placements.


He added that while there is “still lots of work” to be done to “ensure initial education and training reforms are a success”, the CCA is “confident that by working in partnership with NHSE [it] can ensure pharmacists have the skills needed to deliver advanced clinical services such as independent prescribing”.

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