Training sites will receive £26,500 towards the cost of hosting a foundation trainee pharmacist from July 2025, NHS England (NHSE) announced today.

It will be paid to community pharmacies hosting the training, as a contribution towards all costs including supervision, administration and salary costs.

And it can be used to play a placement fee to another training site where reciprocal training relationships are not in place, enabling trainees to secure access to Designated Prescribing Practitioners (DPP).

This comes as independent prescribing becomes part of the foundation training programme, with all pharmacists set to qualify as prescribers at the point of registration from 2024.

Changes to the training programme in the future will also see foundation year trainee pharmacists undertaking multi-sector placements.

Today’s announcement follows concerns raised by the community pharmacy sector around the availability of DPPs in community pharmacy, as well as the disparity between the numbers of community, hospital and general practice trainees making reciprocal training arrangements impossible.

NHSE said that the funding will be consistent across all sectors of practice and all regions of England.

It added: ‘Where a training site arranges a reciprocal multi-sector rotation with another site, with trainees being exchanged between two sites, it is intended that all of the funding is retained by the site employing the trainee, and reciprocal supervision is provided when a trainee rotates into the other site.

‘Where a training site does not have access to a reciprocal rotation with another sector, they may use a portion of the funding to pay another organisation as a placement fee, for example to secure a rotation with access to a prescribing environment and Designated Prescribing Practitioner (DPP).’

And NHSE said that in addition to this funding for training sites, it will provide access ‘to a consistent funded training offer available to all trainee pharmacists across all sectors and regions in England.’

James Davies, director of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) in England, told The Pharmacist that he welcomed the significant increase in the grant.

‘Historically the foundation year grant has remained static at about £18,000 for as long as I can remember, really, and it hasn’t changed and it hasn’t moved with inflation.’

But he said that the increase in funding would ‘start to bring all of the different sectors – community, primary, hospital – onto a level playing field’.

‘We’re saying: “you’re a pharmacist who is entering the profession, it doesn’t matter which sector you work in, we value your work, we’re putting the same investment into your training”. And I think that’s really important,’ he added.

Tase Oputu, RPS England board chair, noted ‘the recognition from NHS England that the costs of supporting the development of a clinical workforce in the community sector have significantly increased and will continue to do so as trainees register as prescribers’.

But she added: ‘Although this boost reflects an overall investment in the sector, it’s of note that this grant contributes to costs, not salaries.

‘We know that pharmacy teams are under increasing pressure and hope this change signals the opportunity to further drive up the quality of our trainee pharmacist experience.’

Dr Leyla Hannbeck, chief executive of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp), told The Pharmacist that while it was good to see the placement funding increased from previous years, it was still ‘a derisory offer’ and ‘not worth anything more’ once inflation was taken into account since the last time the funding was set.

And she echoed Ms Otupu’s concerns about whether the funding amount would cover both the cost of the trainee’s salary as well as additional costs such as administrative support or internal training.

She said that £26,500 would work out at less than £13 an hour for a 40-hour contract. But she added that ‘with the way national living wage (NLW) is going NLW could be close to that come year 25/26’. This would mean ‘there will be nothing left for any admin support or internal training for these trainees, and it is highly likely that contractors will continue to have to fund that themselves as they are now', she suggested.

And she suggested that ‘with the high rate of pharmacy closures it is also unclear how many placements will be available'.

‘Unfortunately the reality is that community pharmacy continues being asked to provide professional services at a beggars fee,’ Dr Hannbeck added.