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Bruce Warner blames low training uptake for lack of sector investment

Bruce Warner: NHS England is running pilots to help galvanise the community pharmacy workforce
Bruce Warner: NHS England is running pilots to help galvanise the community pharmacy workforce

England’s deputy chief pharmaceutical officer has highlighted the “mixed” uptake of pharmacy training programmes as a potential “barrier” to greater investment in the sector.

Bruce Warner said the commissioning body has put “a significant amount of money” into providing “bespoke training programmes” – including leadership and clinical programmes – for pharmacists, to ensure the “skill mix is right” in future primary care networks.

The networks – expanded community multidisciplinary teams, including pharmacists, GPs and “allied health professionals” – were announced in NHS England's long-term plan, published last week (January 7).

But the uptake of leadership training by pharmacists has been “poor”, and the number of pharmacy staff signing up to some clinical education programmes “has been less than what we would have hoped for”, Mr Warner said at the all-party pharmacy group (APPG) meeting on Tuesday (January 15).

He highlighted this as a potential “barrier” to investment in pharmacy, which is needed to help realise its role in the NHS long-term plan.

“When we've got the right people in the right place, doing what we feel needs to be done, then we can start building on the long-term plan,” he said.

“Engagement in the sector – making the most of those opportunities – is something that we still need to work with the sector on.”

“Chicken and egg situation”

Mr Warner admitted that encouraging pharmacists and staff to attend training is a “chicken and egg situation”, as “community pharmacies are busy places”.

“There is an issue, perhaps, that [pharmacists] don’t see [training] as a priority,” he said.

“To take someone out, you can’t underestimate the problems that causes.”

Pharmacists are “on the whole, not necessarily used to being in leadership positions within a local health department”, he added.

“They tend to be led by GPs and [there’s] a lot of nursing input.”

Leadership pilots

NHS England is running pilots to help “galvanise” and equip the community pharmacy workforce, to “make sure that the local economy makes the best use of pharmacy”, Mr Warner said.

“If community pharmacy in primary care networks…is going to really step up and take the role, then we need to equip pharmacists with the confidence and skills to actually apply for those leadership roles,” Mr Warner added.

Have you attended NHS England's training programmes?

Ebers Papyrus, Pharmaceutical Adviser

Flabbergasted at the hypocrisy, Warner used to own a pharmacy! NHS England's treatment of community pharmacy is morally and ethically reprehensible.

Kevin Western, Community pharmacist

They are getting desperate... just another excuse dragged up to prevent them having to commission services... I think he would be best used as an attachment to assist the opening of a door.

C A, Community pharmacist

"uptake of leadership training by pharmacists has been “poor”, and the number of pharmacy staff signing up to some clinical education programmes “has been less than what we would have hoped for”"

Odd - I seem to recall applying for a clinical education programme and even finding a DMP but getting turned down as I was a "community" pharmacist. That makes me wonder how many others have tried and failed. You can't have it both ways - if you are turning down "community" pharmcists you can't complain about "poor" uptake!

Anonymous Anonymous, Information Technology

"Pharmacists... tend to be led by GPs"... Please!!! If we were led by GPs we would have patients receiving their erroneous scripts 50,000 more times per week! I have done the independent prescribing qualification and guess what opportunities it has afforded me? Sweet F all!! How dare this jumped up penpusher be so patronising!! I once castigated him at a meeting and he had no comeback whatsoever... Too much disdain for what he deems to be "non-clinical" pharmacists... But as a previous hospital pharmacist myself - try to get a hospital pharmacist to deal with minor ailments!! Don't even make me laugh!!!

Dodo pharmacist, Community pharmacist

I did a training course to become a GP practice pharmacist 19 years ago, run by Bruce Warner. Does that mean I’m clinical?

Alisha Mann, Community pharmacist

After reading this I feel quite under appreciated. As a pharmacy manager in community you lead a team of staff to deliver customer service and ensure pharmacy standards. I’ve done loads of online leadership training, including HLP leadership training. I was very interested in the Mary seacole training however working for an industry with funding cuts means they aren’t going to pay you to be away from your branch, so I would lose out going on these training events. It’s not that pharmacists don’t want to it’s that it’s near impossible to get the time to do it that is supported by our companies. 


Ashley Cohen, Community pharmacist

Sorry i find this reply extremly offensive. I have self funded a Health focused MBA (2 Years of blood sweat and tears), plus a Clinical Diploma, and a Health Ethics course over the years, and  I work in the community sector. I feel I have relevant leadership, management and clinical skills. So can I have some of this additional money please.

Plus lots in our proffesion gain management, leadership and clinical skills through courses and also through experience, so its important that we dont simply have to "sheep dip" us proffesionals in order to get extra funding.


Mike Hewitson, Superintendent Pharmacist

Maybe community pharmacists feel a bit patronised by being told that they have to go on a training course to be a leader? 

Is it any wonder that lots of community pharmacists feel undervalued by NHS England? They seek to draw an invidious distinction between community pharmacists and “clinical” pharmacists at every opportunity. 

Perhaps if NHS England wishes to engage with the sector it should consider whether its use of language is helpful to building bridges. I’ve asked several questions in a polite and professional way to our Chief Pharmaceutical Officer but he doesn’t answer. I am perfectly willing to meet with him and Bruce Warner at any time to help them understand how they could work with the sector and draw a line under everything which has gone on. But that requires a willingness to accept that things need to change at NHS England as well.


Graham Phillips, Superintendent Pharmacist

Bruce is being disengenuous in the extreme.. we expect these tactics from Keith Ridge but Bruce is supposed to be the straight guy. First off, NHS-E haven't invested a single penny in the training of community pharmacits. Quite the reverse. They have continually "robbed" from the community pharmacy contract and the vast majority of the money has gone to prop up other parts of the NHS. Only a fraction of the #pharmacycuts has been re-invested in pharmacy. Such re-investment there has been has mainly gone to non-communuity pharmacy scheme such as GP pharmacists and a variety of other NHS-E schemes. NHS-E has consistently refused to invest in Community Pharmacist Indepedent Prescribing and when challenged Keith Ridge made it clear that such investment would go to GP Practice Pharmacists only. Despite all of the above, 4 pharmacists from my group have self-funded as Independent Prescribers. As a reward for which the NHS has commissioned precisely NOTHING from us. Maybe Bruce should try writing some of these false premises on the other side of the infamous #Brexit Bus!

A B, Community pharmacist

Slightly off the main topic, but how do the IPs in your pharmacies currently use their skills in a community pharmacy setting? 

C A, Community pharmacist

Does it matter if they use them at all at the current point - the lack of pharmacist skills is a barrier to greater investment in the sector!

So says the DOH so it must be true!

N O, Pharmaceutical Adviser

What kind of Leadership role is he talking?? Are we not already leading a team of supporting staff to run the busiest place on earth ???? And how will this extra training help us?? We are already part of the primary care team. We speak to all the other healthcare professionals day in and day out to get the best treatment for the patient. What else does this gentleman wants us to do?? All talks no action.

Leon The Apothecary, Student

The articles touches upon the real barrier here. When does a pharmacist, technician or pharmacy manager have time to attend these courses, and with no real incentive to do so the majority are going to, quite correctly, enjoy their home life instead.

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