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Trainee pharmacists: Are you still excited to take on IP?

It’s been quite a start to the New Year for pharmacy students, with new requirements being introduced. C+D’s Zainab Hussain shares her thoughts.

The past few years have sought to shift community pharmacy from a dispensary role to a service-led one. For many, that’s great news. But for the 2025/26 cohort of pharmacy students, there will be a lot to take on alongside the standard exam stress.

We have barely made it through January, and the General Pharmaceutical Council’s (GPhC) and NHS England’s (NHSE) announcement last month (January 9), to allow foundation trainee pharmacists to train at primary care networks (PCNs) and general practices, has caught some by surprise. To add to that, NHSE also announced last month (January 17) that there will be a new ‘nominated prescribing area’ requirement for trainees undertaking the mandatory independent prescribing (IP) training.

Read more: Is Pharmacy First addressing the sector's root challenges?

At first glance, the two announcements seem like they are a lot to take on – especially for student pharmacists who will play a key role in paving the path to this new era of community pharmacy.

But then I realised that both announcements go hand-in-hand…

 

 

Addressing the shortage of designated prescribing practitioners (DPPs)

 

The shortage of DPPs was a hot topic for debate last year. It was brought up at the Pharmacy Show and at Clinical Congress North (CPC North). We also published some opinion articles about it on C+D.  The concerns were mainly focused on capacity, and it seems like the sector’s stakeholders have listened…and dare I say acted?

Read more: New year, new DPP

Widening the remit for trainees to attend their training at PCNs and GPs undoubtedly addresses the DPP shortage, as there will be more “sufficiently knowledgeable" DPPs to go round. It then seems logical to have a ‘nominated prescribing area’, because trainees will be working with a wider set of professionals. 

I think this is the perfect opportunity for students to gain hands-on experience, with more options than before. (And I’ll admit, if I were a registered pharmacist right now, I would probably feel a tiny bit jealous that I wasn’t given this opportunity a few years ago).

 

 

Disappointment and concerns

 

But it seems like the community pharmacy sector is met with some disappointment again. For starters, I have heard the sector express concern that training pharmacists at PCNs and GPs might sway trainees away from community pharmacy, which is already facing staffing and capacity shortages. 

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

Looking closely at the nominated prescribing area guidelines published by NHSE, a challenge I instantly picked up on was that training sites will not need to indicate the nominated prescribing area available in its training post but may ‘choose’ to. I think that’s a shame because it will prevent trainees to aspire for the nominated prescribing areas that they might be particularly passionate about.

I also think that while the sector is being met with constant changes, it would have been useful to clarify to students and trainees (and placement providers!) a list of the qualifying nominated prescribing areas.

 

 

The bigger picture

 

Having said that, I realise that certain nominated prescribing areas could be met with more demand, so this could otherwise create a new can of worms! And upon browsing the document again, it seems to me that NHSE’s intention was solely fixated on presenting trainees with sufficient IP training – it reads: “To put it another way, the nominated prescribing area gives the foundation trainee pharmacist a setting in which to demonstrate the generic skills of a prescriber.”

Read more: Five things to know about the foundation training reform

The document also states that the new guidelines “will not limit the future scope of practice” for trainees, who can “develop and widen their scope of practice” through “effective CPD” after becoming a registered pharmacist. 

 

 

The real stakeholders

 

I suppose that although we are met with more news every day, ultimately, the sector’s game changers are the trainees taking on their training year in 2025/26, alongside the professionals who will be supporting them. 

It’s exciting to see the sector gradually shift from dispensary to service-led, but it would be even better for trainees and their supporting professionals to receive adequate support to shine the spotlight on community pharmacy and make this long-awaited ambition come true. 

 

Zainab Hussain is the features assistant and Community reporter at C+D

If you want to have your say on this, or any other community pharmacy topic, please get in touch: [email protected]

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