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Employers resume pharmacist apprenticeship plans and dispel myths

The employer group resumed talks on the MPharm degree apprenticeship for pharmacists last week
The employer group resumed talks on the MPharm degree apprenticeship for pharmacists last week

The employer group behind the pharmacist apprenticeship proposal is seeking to “reassure” the sector, as it prepares a second draft and public consultation.

The employer group met last week to continue discussions around the MPharm degree apprenticeship standard for pharmacists, Skills for Health – a not-for-profit educational organisation facilitating the development of apprenticeship standards – said in a statement on Wednesday (June 16).

Work on a level 7 apprenticeship, equivalent to a master’s degree, where pharmacists would train as apprentices on placements hosted by pharmacy companies, had already been paused two times, before being placed “on hold” due to COVID-19.

Having resumed the talks, the group is now “in the process of reviewing the proposal, apprenticeship standard and end-point assessment plan”, Skills for Health said.

A second proposal and draft standard will eventually go out for public consultation, the timelines of which are yet to be decided, Skills for Health told C+D.

Concerns and myths

The idea of a pharmacist apprenticeship scheme has proved controversial, with some pharmacists concerned that trainees who come through the apprenticeship route will not be as qualified as those who take the traditional MPharm training route.

However, Skills for Health stressed that the pharmacist apprenticeship standard “will be aligned to the recently published General Pharmaceutical Council standards for the initial education and training of pharmacists, while also meeting the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education requirements for apprenticeship standard content”.

The employer group “continues to receive the occasional query regarding the content of the apprenticeship, in addition to the many myths that still exist around apprenticeships in general”, Skills for Health added.

“The group would like to reassure the sector on the following points:

  1. “The apprenticeship standard will include the full MPharm degree and the one-year integrated pre-registration period, thereby meeting the same regulatory requirements as the traditional route.
  2. “Entry onto the apprenticeship programme will continue to be dictated by the MPharm degree element of the programme.
  3. “Participating employers will be responsible for setting the salary for any of their apprentice employees coming onto the programme. As with other professional apprenticeship programmes, due to the significant investment that will be required by the employer to support the method of delivery, we would expect salaries to be competitive in order to both attract and retain individuals to the programme.”
Apprenticeship funding

In a list of frequently asked questions on the Skills for Health website, the organisation said once the apprenticeship elements are approved, the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education will allocate a “funding band” – the maximum of £27,000 – that “represents the maximum amount that can be drawn from the apprenticeship levy to contribute to the overall cost of delivery”.

The employer group behind the proposals is “currently exploring other funding mechanisms to support the overall cost of delivery”, it added.

To register to be notified of when the consultation is available, please email: [email protected]


Would you support the introduction of a pharmacist apprenticeship scheme?

Angela Channing, Community pharmacist

Pie in the sky piffle, to produce pound shop pharmacists! Just under a decade until I get my pension. Roll on retirement. I'm done with this so-called 'profession' !

TC PA, Community pharmacist

I'm yet to hear the reasons as to why an apprenticeship schme is required.

A change in training might be needed when there is a shortage of professionals, a new proposed system would produce better graduates or the current system isn't attracting enough students.

I don't think any of this applies to the pharmacy sector. 


Angela Channing, Community pharmacist

Agree TC, aren't Swansea opening a school of pharmacy this year? So is that around 30 now?

For those oldies amongst us, you'll remember when there were about 14 and you were selected, like with medical school. Now, they are recruiting students with neither the academic ability, with CCD at A level, or the personality to cope with a very demanding job performed under high pressure.

This explains why employers have gone whining to the government to get the profession officially classified as in 'a shortage'.
Don't make me laugh. The only shortage is of people who don't or really simply can't work for the 'Bank' shop on 2005 locum rates of £20/hour.

If anyone can spare half an hour a week. Join the student room site with me, and offer advice to 6th formers who are asking for information on the future of a career in pharmacy. Let's save a few Generation Zooms from a life of misery and drudgery!

The universities are still selling the dream of working in industry and with GPs!

Even former cheerleader Thorrun is retraining as a solicitor, and I don't blame her one bit. Although I find it rather amusing this publication still uses her in her cheerleader role, not realising she is halfway out of the door!

If this ridiculous proposal ever happens, and hopefully it never does, they will be cheap labour all day and given workbooks to do at home, over about 6 years, like a kind of Super DAC (dispensing assistant course).

Do the GPhC have no concerns about 'protecting the public' from these new CCCs. Crazy Chemist Creations?
Over to you Dunc. Bon soir!

Farmer Cyst , Community pharmacist


Gavin Birchall, Community pharmacist

If this is an issue that your care about be sure to sign up to the HASO newsletter:

The newsletter will inform you of when the consultation is published.

Then respond to the consultation.

Our profession does not have one voice but it can still be heard if enough voices combine.

You can find the latest members of the employer group here:

The FAQs can be found here:

Question 3 asks:

'Can I join the employer group to develop the degree apprenticeship?'

Here is the answer:

'In line with the Institute’s guidance, the membership of the employer group should be representative of the sector and organisation types, and with good geographical coverage. However, it must also be of a size that can operate as a working group. Currently the development group is seeking additional NHS representation. If you are interested in joining the group as an NHS representative, please email [email protected]'

Comparing the current members of the employer group and the answer to question 3 it appears that the employer group isn't representative of the sector.

A profession is defined by shared education, standards and values. Where there are multiple routes into our profession inviting a question such as 'What kind of pharmacist are you?' the professional identity of a pharmacist could be split and weakened.

We need unity not division. We need to stand together not apart.

Debate around the education of a pharmacist is beyond the individual and the organisation. It is about our profession as a whole. We need to respond as individuals to ensure the debate is robust and decisions are not made for us due to our apathy.

It isn't fair to judge the proposal before it is published but when it is we should each judge it on its merits.

Is it good for our profession as a whole and do we support it, or is it negative for our profession and do we oppose it?

Angela Channing, Community pharmacist

Gavin, when you have a membership organisation that thinks around 12% of members voting for our so-called leaders, is a good turnout, you know you have a problem with apathy and unity!

If you are under 45, retrain. If over, hunker down and pray for early retirement!

Pear Tree, Community pharmacist

We have heard these arguments clearly and  completely reject all of it. These so called employers are looking for captive slaves after current MPharm students, till operators, dispensers, technicians and pharmacists fully learnt and understood their modus operandi and those with any options voted with their feet. It amazes me how brilliant and enthusiastic dispensers leave so soon to B&M or Poundland after realising the rut they had foolishly joined.  

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