Proposals for pharmacists to qualify through a five-year apprenticeship scheme led by employers have been drawn up in a consultation, which closes on Sunday (April 14), C+D reported this afternoon.
Laura McEwan-Smith, an expert in healthcare apprenticeships, said a “key driver” for the companies behind the proposals include “the government apprenticeship levy and pressure to identify local solutions for pharmacist workforce growth and sustainability”.
The proposal has been developed by a group of at least 10 employers who “reflect all sizes and sectors of employment” for pharmacy, said Ms McEwan-Smith, who sits on Health Education England’s (HEE) healthcare apprenticeship group "Talent for Care".
She was unable to reveal who the pharmacy employers are and stressed that HEE has had no formal role in the development of the pharmacist apprenticeship proposals.
“An alternative training route”
The scheme does not aim to replace pharmacy degrees, she added.
“It will provide an alternative route to train and register…it is not being designed to replace existing funding and training routes.”
The consultation is at the first of three stages, with the aim of finding out if industry professionals support it. But if the proposals are accepted, a company could take on an unlimited number of apprentices and pay their salaries, Ms McEwan-Smith explained.
The government would help to fund these by enabling organisations that pay an apprenticeship tax – those with a wage bill of over £3 million annually – to claim back the cost of apprentice training* from this tax.
For smaller employers, the government would pay for 90% of the education costs through a “co-investment scheme”.
GPhC accreditation needed
The standards and assessment will “need to be exactly aligned with the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) initial training and education standards”, Ms McEwan-Smith said.
Courses* would have to be accredited by the regulator in the same way as undergraduate degrees, she continued.
Ms McEwan-Smith is not directly involved with the trailblazer group, though she has been involved with government apprenticeships for “many years”.
*This article was updated to clarify that employers would be able to claim back the cost of apprentice training, not salaries, and courses would have to be accredited by the regulator, not that employers would have to seek accreditation.