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Pharmacy bodies: Sustainable funding needed for 5-year degree plan

CCA, AIMp and NPA: Pharmacy schools should be eligible for additional high-cost funding

A sustainable funding model must be considered before combining academic study and pre-registration training standards into a five-year programme, say three pharmacy bodies.

The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) proposed the five-year integrated programme for pharmacy students in a 12-week consultation that ended yesterday (April 3).

The Company Chemists’ Association (CCA), the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp) and the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) said the plans require a “carefully considered and sustainable funding model”.

In a joint response to the consultation released yesterday, they said it was “important to emphasise” that funding and remuneration models were not addressed and “still need to be discussed”.

“Clarity is needed” on funding from Health Education England, NHS Education for Scotland and Health Education and Improvement Wales, they added.

GPhC: Up to others to decide

The GPhC’s consultation document did not explain how placements would be funded in a five-year degree.

However, it told C+D last month (March 22) that “it is up to others including government departments, funding bodies, health education and training bodies, schools of pharmacy and employers to work collaboratively and consider what changes may be needed in relation to funding and delivery”.

The CCA, AIMp and NPA also said pharmacy schools should be “eligible for additional high-cost funding to cover at least one clinical year” in line with dentistry and medicine courses.

“MPharm degrees are clinical courses and should not be grouped alongside laboratory-based science courses when it comes to subject funding,” they added.

Nevertheless, the bodies recognised “the educational case for a curriculum [that] aims to allow better access to patients earlier in the programme through integration of work-based learning and assessment”.

Declining pharmacy degree applications

The CCA, NPA and AIMp also expressed concern about a decline in applications to study pharmacy in the last five years.

The number of people studying pharmacy at university has fallen 4.5% since 2013-14, from 14,599 to 13,940 in 2016-17, according to the GPhC.

“Motivations to study pharmacy must be further explored to understand why a previously steady growth in applications has slowed,” the pharmacy bodies said.

“Attracting the right calibre of students to schools of pharmacy is essential for a driven and aspirational future workforce,” they added.

RPS: A risk to the pharmacy workforce

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS)’s director of education Gail Fleming said in a statement that “if these proposals are implemented prior to additional funding being secured, the potential disruption could pose a risk to the future of the pharmacy workforce”.

The RPS welcomed the GPhC’s “ambition to see closer integration of academic study and learning in practice” but warned that this would “require considerable investment and infrastructure”, Ms Fleming said.

Read GPhC chair Nigel Clarke’s explanation of why students need a five-year pharmacy programme here.

What do you make of the GPhC's proposals?

David Miller, Hospital pharmacist

Universities sadly stood in the way of this development to the detriment of pharmacy as a profession and patients. This was through the BIS secretary as they sought to maintain overseas student income which is controlled in medicine/dentistry. Appropriate that the guardians of public safety GPhC and the profession RPS are united in supporting this move.   However new funding required and must be used to deliver clinically proficient decision makers including an element of prescribing on graduation if we are to meet the growing demands for additional pharmacists in the NHS.

I did the MPharm 4 year degree course and I think it could have been done in 3 years easily.  From my experience time tables could be made more efficient and pointless modules of work could be cut. 


Caroline Jones, Community pharmacist

Why does a pharmacy degree need to be 4 years? Or 5 if they integrate the pre-reg into this? There has been no improvement, that I've noticed, in the calibre of Pharmacists produced since the degree went from 3 to 4 years. There is good and bad students in all years; the only difference now is that there's 10 times as many graduates as there was 20 years ago. Ultimately it will take students to decide Pharmacy degrees are not worth the effort, given what the end result is, and choose a different career path....why they haven't done this already is beyond me.....



Benie Locum, Locum pharmacist

I'll answer your questions.

There is no need for the degree to be 4/5 years other than getting in more more for the Universities.

Calibre of students are down becasuse standards have purposely been lowered to allow for greater entry numbers and obviously more money for Universities.

* I forgot the part about providing cheap expendable 'mules' for the corporates.

How about the GPhC works to makes some proper changes to the pharmacy curriculum and actually makes the course much more clinical and trains students to be prescribers? If junior doctors can be preliminary prescribers right out universities, why not pharmacists? Those that have actually worked with junior doctors will know just how inept some of them can be regarding medicines, same can be said about GPs and consultants. Give pharmacists PROPER training and prepare them for a prescribing role. Medicines should be our domain, we're the experts in medicines after all, right? But instead, all we're seeing is news like this and watching as more and more universities are opening pharmacy schools churning out sub standard students that get into universities with CCC in A-level who then complain about how "hard and ruthless" their pre-reg exam is.


Clive Hodgson, Community pharmacist

Many Independent Prescribers already struggle to find full time employment. The number of employment opportunities for pharmacist IPs is small and finite. It is not a sector likely to grow.

If prescribing is a primary goal would it not make more sense to not waste time and money on a 5 year pharmacy degree but to do things properly and undertake a Medicine degree where career and salary prospects are so much better?

I think you have missed the point of my comment. I want pharmacists, whether they are based on community, surgery or hospital to be prescribers. I am not commenting on this current current state of affairs regarding independent prescribers.

As for doing medicine, well obviously nobody will just pick a course because they can prescribe (hopefully not!). A person might just not be interested in doing medicine or dentistry. My issue is the fact we are still not being given the prescribing rights we deserve. I am hoping things will change in the future .

Chris Locum, Locum pharmacist

I agree with you. I had hoped we would gain prescribing rights during my career. The early attempts were written off as "Pharmacist prescribing was more expensive." However, Clive is right. Many IP pharmacists are not employed in a full-time position. The DOH can make any proclamation. Cold hard cash is the only way to change it. If surgery is owned by an organisation, they can stick a prescribing nurse on for part of the day to lower costs. Unfortunately, the over-production of graduates has destroyed prospects of a once great profession. I'm glad I no longer part of it.

Paul Samuels, Community pharmacist

sorry duplicated

Paul Samuels, Community pharmacist

Couldn't agree more ,why spend 5 years studying for a profession with very few prospects,poor financial rewards & little respect.Overproduction of graduates & too many schools of pharmacy only exacerbate the problem for a dying profession!

Paul Samuels, Community pharmacist


Benie Locum, Locum pharmacist

Study for 5 years, take on a 5 figure debt and go on to earn 25k per annum working for a multiple(where most graduates end up) and no promotion or increase in earnings. ? Yeah sounds great, should have people lining up for years to come.

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