Community pharmacies should begin building relationships with local primary care providers now to support prescribing training and multi-sector placements for foundation year trainees, the president of the Primary Care Pharmacy Association (PCPA) has advised.

Speaking to The Pharmacist following the news of an increase to the foundation training grant this week, Dr Graham Stretch warned community pharmacies against outsourcing prescribing training to large organisations.

Instead, he suggested they start building relationships with local prescribers, including those in general practice, to help showcase how they can meet the prescribing requirements for offering an Oriel placement from January.

And he said that having local arrangements in place now would stand placement providers in good stead when multi-sector placements become compulsory for foundation year pharmacists, as well as benefiting day-to-day working relationships between clinicians.

For the 2025/26 foundation training year, employers hosting trainee pharmacists must be able to provide access to a Designated Prescribing Practitioner (DPP) and a prescribing learning environment, while multi-sector rotations are 'strongly encouraged’, but will not become compulsory until the 2026/7 foundation year.

Guidance released by NHS England (NHSE) yesterday suggested that a portion of the funding could be used to pay a placement fee to another training site, enabling trainees to secure access to DPPs.

‘Some of those monies could be used by community providers to buy 90 hours of training from colleagues, potentially in GP surgeries,’ Dr Stretch told The Pharmacist.

He added: ‘I think it would be much better to use the catalyst to develop those joint trainings, because the following year, they're going to be obligatory anyway.’

Dr Stretch, a pharmacist partner in the Argyle Health Group general practice, currently works with trainee pharmacists who are employed by local community pharmacies and spend weekly rotations in both the community pharmacy and general practice settings.

‘I think on the whole, the trainees appreciate the breadth of experience they get from doing [placements] across sectors,’ he told The Pharmacist.

Spending time in a dispensary, managing the supply of drugs, was ‘essential’ training for all pharmacists, regardless of whether they ended up working in a community pharmacy or a different primary care setting, added Dr Stretch.

And he said that trainee pharmacists having experience of different settings was ‘really helpful’ for joint working between the different local clinicians in the future.

While Dr Stretch recognised that national providers were likely to offer prescribing training for foundation year students at scale, he added: ‘I'm not sure that's quite the same as engaging the local surgery and building something a little bit more sustainable for the future.

‘I’d definitely try and encourage people to try and use this as a catalyst… build up that integrated working, because the benefits you'll get from it will probably be beyond this foundation training.’

And he stressed that community pharmacies hoping to provide placements from 2025 ‘need to do something now’ in order to be able to outline, at least in principle, how they will meet the prescribing requirements for Oriel placement provision when registration for the recruitment platform opens in early January.

Oriel, NHSE’s recruitment platform, is compulsory for training sites who wish to receive NHSE funding for placements.

Dr Stretch also disagreed with claims that the funding grant of £26,500 per trainee would not be enough to meet salary and costs.

And he suggested that a graduate working in a pharmacy would ‘very soon’ deliver a ‘return on that investment’ and become ‘a valuable member of your staff’.

In order to be eligible for NHSE funding, trainees will need to undertake clinical work within their placement rather than just shadowing or observing a pharmacist.

Dr Stretch also said that the cost of employing a trainee could also be offset by the provision of an NHSE funded training offer ‘available to all trainee pharmacists across all sectors and regions in England’.