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Everything we know about the pharmacist apprenticeship proposals

Pharmacists would train as apprentices on placements hosted by pharmacy companies
Pharmacists would train as apprentices on placements hosted by pharmacy companies

Following the revelation that a five-year pharmacist apprenticeship is under consultation, C+D sets out what we know about the proposals so far

Last week, C+D reported that a proposal for a five-year pharmacist apprenticeship scheme was under consultation, which was met by a sector-wide response ranging from support to alarm.

The 10-day consultation, launched by the Institute for Apprenticeship and Technical Education – an employer-led public body not affiliated with a government department – closed on April 14.

While the finer details of what a pharmacist apprenticeship could encompass, who was involved in drafting the proposals, and how long they have been in development are somewhat patchy, C+D has pieced together what is known about the apprenticeship so far.

What does the pharmacist apprenticeship involve?

The proposal is for a level 7 apprenticeship, equivalent to a master’s degree, where pharmacists would train as apprentices on placements hosted by pharmacy companies.

Laura McEwan-Smith, an expert in healthcare apprenticeships, who sits on Health Education England’s (HEE) healthcare apprenticeship group Talent for Care, tells C+D the pharmacist apprenticeship would be an “alternative” route into the profession.

The apprenticeship is “not designed to replace existing funding [and] training routes”, she stresses.

The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) says the apprenticeship would still need to meet its learning outcomes and standards in order to be fully accredited, and trainee pharmacists would still be required to pass the pre-registration exam to join the register.

How did the proposals come about?

The Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education tells C+D it “works with employers to develop apprenticeships that address skills gaps identified by the employers and the sector as a whole”.

Ms McEwan-Smith echoes this sentiment, telling C+D “key drivers” for employers to develop proposals for an apprenticeship scheme include the government apprenticeship levy and “to identify local solutions for pharmacist workforce growth and sustainability”.

Who developed the proposals?

The institute says proposals have been developed with “a range of employers, the professional body, [the] regulator and higher education institutes”.

However, the GPhC, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS), the National Pharmacy Association, and the Pharmacy Schools Council have all largely denied involvement in developing the proposals.

Meanwhile, Boots, Well, Lloydspharmacy and Superdrug have all confirmed to C+D they are part of the “employer trailblazer group” – a group of at least 10 employers “that come together as the creators and early adopters of new apprenticeship standards”, according to the institute’s website.

Professional bodies and trade associations can also be members of the “trailblazer group”, but do not count towards the total of employers.

Details of which employers and pharmacy bodies are part of the trailblazer group are not currently available. However, the full list of employers will be published once the standards have been approved.

How have pharmacy bodies reacted? 

The Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) called on its members last Friday (April 12) to reject the proposals, on the basis that an apprenticeship would result in a “reduction in standards and deprofessionalisation”.

“The profession has not been widely engaged or consulted as to whether it wants an apprenticeship to be introduced. On that basis alone it should not proceed,” the PDA stressed.

The association plans to hold a meeting with the institute “as soon as possible after Easter” to discuss the proposals, which representatives from other pharmacy organisations will be invited to.

While the institute has implicated the GPhC in the development of these apprenticeship proposals, the regulator has distanced itself from involvement.

The GPhC tells C+D it has not contributed to drafting them, but “attended two meetings to explain regulatory requirements”.

In response to the consultation, the regulator has urged the institute to “hold a further and more detailed consultation for a longer period if the proposals move forward, to enable everyone with views on the proposals to fully contribute”.

The RPS has also expressed concern over the “lack of communication” of the processes for the development of the apprenticeship proposals.

It has called on the “trailblazer group” to “provide further details that will enable us and our members to better understand the deliberations that have taken place to date”.

Sector reaction

News of the consultation, which the institute says was “circulated to stakeholders and representative groups”, was met with a range of comments and reaction on social media ahead of last Sunday's deadline.

What’s next for the proposals?

Now the first stage of the consultation has closed, more than 6,000 responses will be reviewed by a “health and science route panel”, along with the proposals themselves.

The panel will then make a recommendation to the institute’s board, who will make the final decision on whether to move ahead.

The panel – which meets every six weeks to consider submissions from “trailblazer groups” – is chaired by Kirk Lower, a national lead for apprenticeships at HEE's Talent for Care, the institute says.

The proposal states the “target date” for approval is December 31.

Result

Do you support the introduction of a 5-year pharmacist apprenticeship?
No, not under any circumstances
79%
Not sure. It would depend on the specific proposals and training provided
16%
Yes, I would be confident in the pharmacists produced from such a scheme
5%
Total votes: 202
12 Comments
Question: 
What do you make of proposals for a pharmacist apprenticeship scheme?

Interleukin -2, Community pharmacist

Is there a GP apprenticeship ? I personally will gladly join such a program

George Ibrahim, Community pharmacist

I’ve got a train to catch....goodbye to this line of work

Shabs A, Community pharmacist

It is time to scrap the GPhC and RPS and create a new regulator that is solely run by pharmacists. A regulator that will look after the interests of the profession and help it move forward with the times. 

Umer Ayyaz, Community pharmacist

Half the GPhC council aren't even pharmacists...

P Rimps, Product Development

Cheeky way to save £36k on tuition fees and maybe £15-20k accommodation/living cost. I for one probably would have taken an apprenticeship rather than uni if I had the choice. It would be interesting to see the course content and how the individual is assessed every year. I could quite easily see apprentices being trained on how to pass a pre reg exam with no regard for the actual course, so how would you regulate the quality of learning/teaching. I am in favour of apprenticeships but I wouldn’t trust the gphc as a regulator, let’s start with looking after pharmacists that under pressure everyday than unnecessary schemes like this!

Tarvinder Juss, Locum pharmacist

What's wrong with the present route of becoming a pharmacist? Too hard for 'some'? No doubt these 'some' think that the fundamental, research-based science taught on the MPharm course contributes nothing towards being a pharmacist. Training paths are already in place for the full skill mix required in a pharmacy, and I therefore suspect that these proposals are simply designed to make it easier for some to become a pharmacist.

Female Tech, Pharmacy technician

Maybe it'd be easier for those who can't afford to go to university. Running a household and having children to feed often means people can't even start to imagine going to uni.

Interleukin -2, Community pharmacist

Dont be a pharmacist then please. It isnt safe for patients

George Ibrahim, Community pharmacist

Don’t be disparaging. I had the great pleasure of overseeing a pre-reg pharmacist who upskilled from being a technician, our colleagues have enormous value to offer

Leon The Apothecary, Student

I agree, what we need to ask is why are we proposing this. There are far more pressing concerns.

Joe Speedo, Community pharmacist

The pharmacist apprenticeship is a the final nail in the coffin to pharmacists Of what respect they have left. Please all refuse this absurd and ridiculous idea that will bring the profession of pharmacists down the drain. Any pharmacist with an ounce of respect should reject this proposal and tell there colleagues and stand against this 

Kelvin Chang, Primary care pharmacist

How about physician associate becomes doctor? Doesn’t make sense

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