Independent prescribing (IP) training for the existing workforce was considered the biggest challenge facing the profession in our exclusive survey of community and practice pharmacists.

Respondents were asked what they thought were the biggest challenges facing pharmacists at the moment, with the ability to select multiple options from a list or add another option.

IP training was selected 83 times, ranking above workforce (74), medicines shortages (64), funding (56) and training the next generation of community pharmacists (35).

But while the overall most-selected barrier in our survey was IP training, among community pharmacy owners and employed community pharmacists workforce or medicines shortages was selected more or nearly as many times.

More than half (93 out of 160) of our respondents to this section of the survey were independent prescribers themselves, with 50 saying that they used their IP skills in their current job. The majority of these were either practice or PCN pharmacists or employed community pharmacists.

A further 36 respondents said that they were planning to train as an independent prescriber, 18 said they would like to train as an independent prescriber but did not yet have plans in place, while the remaining 13 said they were not planning to train as an independent prescriber.

Respondents highlighted finding time to train as the biggest barrier (97) to training the existing community pharmacy workforce as independent prescribers, while 37 identified funding for the course as a major issue.

Finding a Designated Prescribing Practitioner (DPP) was selected by 57 respondents as the biggest barrier to IP training, while 37 respondents said that access to the course was the biggest issue.

Jay Badenhorst, vice-chair of the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) said that it was 'not easy to carve out the time for skills development' but that the rewards could be 'very considerable'.

'Pharmacist independent prescribing will give patients a more convenient service in respect of health maintenance and the management of long term conditions, as well as acute care,' he said. And he added that it was good that training had been made available for the existing pharmacist workforce.

Barriers to training new pharmacists were also highlighted by respondents across both general practice and community settings. While most felt that their workplace would have the capacity to support a pre-registration pharmacist, funding for clinical placements was frequently highlighted as an issue.

This was ranked more highly than lack of things for a student to do, and time to train them.

Some respondents also said that finding suitable applicants for the placement was an issue.

Malcolm Harrison, chief executive of the Company Chemists’ Association (CCA), told The Pharmacist in a recent interview that training pre-registration pharmacists had always been a ‘loss leader’ for community pharmacy but was offset by the value of training a future employee or community pharmacist.

But he said that the new system of allocating trainee pharmacists cross-sector placements through the Oriel recruitment portal meant that ‘the employer has no ability to select who they want or to do anything to train them up the way they want to train them up’.

And because there were more community pharmacy trainees than in general practice and hospital combined, there may not be enough placements for community pharmacy trainees in other settings when the time came for them to rotate placements, he suggested.

‘When there's no funding associated with it, there's going to be cost incurred by the community providers, which makes it even less attractive. You’ve then got the challenge of all… the clinical supervision,’ he added.

‘I think there's a number of issues at the moment which dare I say are being wished away by those that are designing this programme, they haven't thought about the practicalities of it,’ he suggested.

Dr Leyla Hannbeck, chief executive of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp), also told The Pharmacist that DPP supervision for trainee pharmacists would be a challenge for community pharmacies.

She highlighted that closures in the sector could cause issues around training new pharmacists.

‘More pharmacists are going out of business, so where are you going to be finding the pharmacies to be training them?’ she asked.

‘It’s becoming really difficult for [community] pharmacies to move forward with this… not being on a level playing field with everybody else.’

Funded training for DDPs was recently launched, but the sector has said that funding to release their time to supervise a trainee remains an issue.