The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) and the British Pharmaceutical Students’ Association (BPSA) have issued a joint call to the government to allow pharmacy students to access the Learning Support Fund available to other health professionals.

Under the scheme, eligible students on nursing, midwifery, medical, dental and allied health profession courses will be able to claim 50% more for travel and accommodation expenses.

In a joint letter to health minister Will Quince, the RPS and BPSA have expressed disappointment that pharmacy students on clinical placements are currently excluded from the support.

The letter – also signed by the Pharmacy Schools Council – argues that, without appropriate funding in line with other health professionals, pharmacy students could be blocked from wider learning experiences and instead concentrate on placements closer to university.

According to the RPS and BPSA, this runs the risk of widening disparities across England’s regions.

Addressing the health minister, the letter states: ‘As you know, the current Learning Support Fund comprises a Training Grant, Specialist Subject Payment, Parental Support, Travel and Dual Accommodation Expenses, and an Exceptional Support Fund.

‘While we would ideally look for pharmacy students to be able to access all aspects of the Learning Support Fund as part of a future review, financial support for travel and accommodation for pharmacy students on clinical placements would be a positive first step.’

The letter also points out that from 2026, all new pharmacists will qualify as independent prescribers, and that the NHS estimates that education and training places for pharmacists need to grow by 31% to 55% to meet the demand for pharmacy services.

Tase Oputu, RPS England chair, said: ‘As pharmacists are playing a more clinical role in the health service, it seems more and more unjust that pharmacy students are excluded from the financial support they deserve.

‘If we are to attract and retain the pharmacists we need to meet demand, this inequity at the very start of their career journey must be addressed,’ Ms Oputu added.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson told The Pharmacist that the government would respond to the letter in due course, and said: ‘The Learning Support Fund (LSF) is only applicable to courses which were within the scope of the education funding reforms in 2017, which did not include pharmacy courses.

‘Since 2010 the number of registered pharmacists in England has increased by 82% and through our NHS Long Term Workforce Plan we have committed to expand training places for pharmacists to almost 5,000 by 2032, alongside expanding training for pharmacy technicians via the apprenticeship route and exploring a pharmacist degree apprenticeship.’