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The new trainee pharmacists arrangement: What could this mean for the future?

The GPhC’s recent announcement allows trainee pharmacists to train at Primary Care Networks (PCNs) and GPs, Danny Bartlett breaks this down 

The recent announcement made by the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) - to include PCNs and GPs as lead employers for trainee pharmacists or foundation pharmacists - has caused a stir amongst community pharmacy. There is concern that this will draw further interest away from an already struggling sector.

In my opinion, I think it will do the complete opposite.

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

The undeniable appeal of GPs and PCNs is having a more prescribing-facing role for both acute and chronic conditions. With this being entirely aligned with the new GPhC standards on initial education for pharmacy professionals, this gives undergraduates a clear roadmap to an existing and ready environment for them to harness their prescribing skills.

With community pharmacy receiving an influx of funding, through an interest and a push for delivering more clinical services such as Pharmacy First, it is on the road to becoming ‘prescribing ready’ but many community pharmacists are struggling to access designated prescribing practitioners (DPPs).

Further to this, there is a reticence from community pharmacists to take on trainee pharmacists. Because of the new standards in force, pharmacists are not being able to offer the essential DPP on paper. This improved link with GPs will help alleviate this.

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

I plan to take on a trainee in my PCN, Horsham Central PCN, and offer them the invaluable experience of working in a multi-sector switch with a local community pharmacy. This will help them gain exposure to experiences they may not encounter in a GP environment. This includes skills in managing a dispensary, exposure to minor ailments, the running of a business and many more.

Further to this, I will be offering, and indeed suggesting, that community pharmacies in my area agree to take on a trainee pharmacist in the year 2025/26, offering my services as their named DPP. I believe that this will encourage community pharmacies to feel less burdened to meet all learning outcomes from a very demanding year, but it will also help strengthen the trainee’s breadth of knowledge. It is a key worry that there aren’t enough DPPs within community pharmacy, and this is a viable way to solve the problem.

Read more: Maintaining authentic patient contact in the shift to remote consultations

The deadline for applications to take on trainee pharmacists is March 1, 2024, through a system known as Oriel. This includes a matching process, taken out of the hands of prospective employers, and the trainees allocated to them will not be known to them until they have accepted a place.

I started at community pharmacy, at what was then known as a ‘pre-reg’ placement, in a busy pharmacy that I had experience working with beforehand, and this made things less daunting for me moving into my training year. I see this change as a negative move.

I know that many training providers also disapprove of the move, however, I don’t think it should scare off organisations. With Oriel in place, we will be able to know the exact fill rate of all training places rather than relying on external sources of data, as it will be in one place. And although I won’t know who my incumbent trainee will be, I am confident in the universities that are instilling strong practice and knowledge with the new GPhC standards.

Read more: From crisis to evolution: Community pharmacy’s transformation

In summary, I endorse and welcome the move to allow people like me and my GP colleagues to take and employ trainee pharmacists. I also recognise my GP colleagues, who are maintaining an open and enthusiastic willingness to collaborate with community pharmacy colleagues in sharing the supervision burden.

I encourage all community pharmacies to welcome the challenge to take on trainee pharmacists to bolster their workforce in a difficult and busy health landscape. Even if they haven’t taken on a trainee pharmacist before, this is an opportune time to be at the forefront of an exciting developing profession.

It is a key way to improve links with GPs, and open the door to allow existing community pharmacies to access DPP supervision and increase a chronic independent prescribing (IP) need in pharmacy.


Danny Bartlett is a lead pharmacist at Horsham Central PCN, senior lecturer at the University of Brighton and English pharmacy board member at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society

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