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'Pharmacist apprenticeship proposals driven by workforce issues'

Laura McEwan-Smith: This apprenticeship is not being designed to replace existing training routes
Laura McEwan-Smith: This apprenticeship is not being designed to replace existing training routes

Proposals for a pharmacist apprenticeship scheme have been driven by companies looking for solutions to workforce issues in the sector, an apprenticeship expert has said.

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”.

Read the full consultation and respond here.

*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.

What do you make of proposals for a pharmacist apprenticeship scheme?

anti-depressed Pharmacist, Manager



You mean Pharmacists refusing to work in unsafe pharmacies to protect themselves and the patients because we all know the USELESS Gphc are not going to do anything.


If there are workforce issues why don't you open more pharmacy schools or hire more EU pharmacist...


O silly me you already did that and the EU pharmacists ran back home when they realised the ridiculous work load. The low uptake of students due to poor future prospects has caused The University of Sussex to close their pharmacy department.


Plan A and B failed now you are moving onto plan C which is to employ Mr Bean as a “Pharmacist” on minimum wage.


Chris Locum, Locum pharmacist

The only shortage will be the tax-payer provided compensation for a current pre-registration year. Students will still need the relevant qualification, and therefore no change is necessary. There will be a shortage eventually because hostile working conditions, and remuneration will transmit the decreasing value of being a community pharmacist.

"Proposals for a pharmacist apprenticeship scheme have been driven by companies looking for solutions to workforce issues in the sector"

Stagnant/reducing pay, lack of opportunity and poor working practices at multiples are driving the problems in recruitment. 

Similar issues exist in nursing and medicine. These issues won't go away by making degrees/apprenticeships/shelf stacking courses privately funded.

David Evans, Superintendent Pharmacist

Can I suggest you all read the thread on th other C&D article. This is all about the apprenticeship levy, the inability to spend it, and tuition fees. Students will still have to complete the GPhC route to registration.  

And C&D your website is rubbish when you need to add comments via an iPad etc, sort it out




Interleukin -2, Community pharmacist

You really need to stop now. No one will agree with you and your short sighted views

Spot on, David. Wishing Evans Pharmacy continued success and warm regards.

Grace Lewis, Editorial

Thanks for your feedback David. I'll get the website team to look into it.

Grace Lewis, Deputy Editor

Reeyah H, Community pharmacist

Funny how this has all turned to just before funding is settled! 

Caroline Jones, Locum pharmacist

This sly and disingenuous proposal by the multiples smacks of the disgraceful responsible pharmacist rules the multiples slid through in the the dying days of the 'Royal Pharmaceutical Society' under Chattham House rules. We never found out then which multiples pushed and voted for that either and surprise, surprise the Royal Pharmaceutical Society is supine and silent again in defending the interests of pharmacy and pharmacists. Thank god for the PDA being alert and vocal in our defence and that of the general public. Only the RPS and GPhc would stand silent and impotent whilst member skills are being downgraded at a time when our skills and vigilence is even more in need by the NHS, even if they don't recognise it the general public certainly do. Could they be even more out of step than politicians with the needs and expectations of their members and the public they claim to protect or are they more in the pockets of vested interests than ever? Could it also be that the non-pharmacist leadership of both organisations haven't got a clue what it means to be a pharmacist and the skills we require and responsibilities we have.

Michael Achiampong, Community pharmacist

Well said Caroline. The key pieces of legislation underpinning pharmacy practice are the Medicines Act 1968 and the Controlled Drugs Acts and amended regulations. The responsibilities of being a practising pharmacist in the current challenging environment are immense. It demands a wholehearted sense of vocation at all times. One cannot afford to have an "apprentice mindset" because our ultimate customers, patients and the general public will simply not tolerate half-hearted "apprenticeship proposals" or slip-shod standards of customer service and practice environments. Pharmacy is a unique vocational profession, where every single act of commission or omission matters; and has consequences. I am cautiously optimistic that the professional remains this way; and not become a watered-down, shadow of itself. 

Lucky Ex-Boots Slave, Primary care pharmacist

This brings up another topic - can we vote for no confidence in GPhC and RPS to derecognise them and form another competent regulator and professional body?

John Boey, Community pharmacist

Five Year MPharm suddenly causing employers to lose their pre-reg grants and chance of return of investment; is that why this apprenticeship idea suddenly popped up?

Paul Dishman, Pharmaceutical Adviser

That's all what the Americans call "a crock"

Lucky Ex-Boots Slave, Primary care pharmacist

No it's driven by greed and money whore to source pharmacists on the cheap. End of

Clive Hodgson, Community pharmacist

A way of getting some (very) cheap labour during the apprenticeship period, controlling pharmacist numbers, indoctrinating into a particular company ethos and perhaps contractually locking in after the apprenticeship completion? What is not to least from the perspective of the Multiples and their shareholders?

Z Z, Pharmacy Asistant/ Medicine Counter Assistant

Workforce issues means there are people who want to get paid more than the minimum wage. Or don't want to work to midnight. 

David Moore, Locum pharmacist

Driven by workforce issues? I thought we had too many pharmacy schools producing too many pharmacists.

Benie Locum, Locum pharmacist

Even the foolish eventually realise Pharmacy is not quite what it seems...


Joan Richardson, Locum pharmacist


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