General practices and primary care networks (PCNs) will be able to employ pharmacist trainees from 2025, making them eligible for the recently updated NHS England (NHSE) pharmacist training grant.

While some general practice and PCN sites have already hosted pharmacist trainees for part of their placement, this has been administered under a memorandum of understanding with community and hospital pharmacy employers.

But in a webinar hosted today by the Primary Care Pharmacy Association (PCPA), with representatives from NHSE, it was announced that general practices and PCNs would now be classified as a ‘patient facing setting’.

Being classified as a patient facing setting makes general practice and PCNs eligible to be the lead employer for pharmacist trainees under requirements from the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC).

Under newly harmonised funding arrangements announced by NHSE, general practices and PCNs will therefore receive £26,500 per training post as a contribution towards training, including employment costs, as well as having access to an NHSE-funded training course.

Community and hospital pharmacy employers will be eligible for the same funding.

Health and justice settings will also be recognised as a patient facing setting, and be eligible for the same funding.

General practices and PCNs intending to employ pharmacist trainees must upload their training programme and how they will meet training requirements to ORIEL – NHSE’s recruitment platform – by 1 March.

PCPA president and pharmacist GP partner Graham Stretch told The Pharmacist that the changes felt like ‘a massive step forward’ for the sector.

And he encouraged the profession to see it as a positive change despite any logistical challenges that may arise.

‘I do recognise there are challenges, that we're going to as a profession have to work around, but the benefits to the profession of everyone becoming a prescriber, should I hope for everyone be a pretty obvious win here,’ Mr Stretch said.

He added that he still expected that community, general practice and hospital pharmacy employers would work together to fulfil the training requirements for each student, including access to a designated prescribing practitioner (DPP) and to a dispensary, even before multi-sector placements become mandatory from 2026.

And he noted that dispensaries within a general practice that are not a registered pharmacy would not be eligible to provide the dispensary part of the training.

He added: ‘Anything that improves integration, that’s got to be a good thing to everybody.’

And he suggested that PCNs acting as the lead employer ‘and then sort of seconding their employed trainee to GP sites, to community pharmacy sites, and indeed to hospital sites feels to me like the end game here for primary care’.

‘And who knows, maybe it will just be that last piece that we need to properly start to integrate community pharmacy into PCN networks,’ he said.

The PCPA also shared on X, formerly known as Twitter, a response from GPhC chief executive Duncan Rudkin, who is quoted as saying: ‘There should be no barriers to regarding general practice and primary care networks as patient-facing and therefore enabling these to be the “lead employer” for the purpose of Foundation Training.’

This is a breaking news story – more to follow.