It has been acknowledged by NHS England that funding to support students with the costs of clinical placements is ‘inconsistently paid’, according to health minister Andrew Stephenson.

In a letter seen by The Pharmacist, Mr Stephenson, who has responsibility for healthcare education, said the government kept the ‘funding arrangements for all healthcare students under close review’.

His letter came in response to an appeal from pharmacy students for fair funding, as they remain excluded from the Learning Support Fund (LSF).

A recent increase to the LSF will allow eligible students on nursing, midwifery, medical, dental and allied health profession courses to claim 50% more for travel and accommodation expenses.

But pharmacy students on clinical placements are currently excluded from the scheme.

Student representatives from the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) and others have written to their local MPs to express their concerns.

And PDA director Paul Day has told The Pharmacist that several local MPs had forwarded this correspondence to Mr Stephenson.

In a response from the health minister, seen by The Pharmacist, he said: ‘NHS England acknowledges that funding to support students with the costs of clinical placements is inconsistently paid.

‘It is working with partners to how it could introduce a single, consistent policy for funding for excess travel and accommodation costs incurred by students on placement.’

He added that the government also ‘keeps the funding arrangements for all healthcare students under close review’.

Mr Stephenson also confirmed that when the LSF was expanded in 2020, pharmacy courses were not eligible for the NHS bursary and were therefore outside the scope of the LSF arrangements.

Mr Day from the PDA commented to The Pharmacist: ‘To end that unfair treatment of pharmacy students is precisely the point of the PDA students’ campaign.’

And he said that the campaign would continue to call on the minister to change the LSF eligibility to include MPharm students.

Sir Kier Starmer, leader of the opposition, and Sir Ed Davey, leader of the Liberal Democrats, are also among the MPs who have responded to pharmacy students’ calls for fair funding, Mr Day revealed to The Pharmacist.

In September, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS), British Pharmaceutical Students’ Association (BPSA) and the Pharmacy Schools Council wrote to health minister Will Quince to urge him to consider making financial support for travel and accommodation available to pharmacy students on clinical placements.

NHS England has been contacted for comment.

Alliance Healthcare UK and Pharmacist Support offer student bursaries

Wellbeing charity Pharmacist Support recently announced a three-year partnership with wholesaler Alliance Healthcare UK to offer bursaries of either £3,000 or £5,000 to penultimate year students on accredited MPharm courses who face unexpected adversity.

The scheme will be open for applications from 29 January 2024.

Danielle Hunt, chief executive of Pharmacist Support, said that the longer-term collaboration ‘marks a significant step forward’ in the charity’s ‘ongoing commitment to supporting future generations of pharmacists’.

‘Together, we aim to make a positive impact on the lives of these students, providing them with the resources they need to overcome challenges and pursue successful careers in pharmacy,’ she added.

‘This multi-year partnership allows us to plan and execute initiatives that have a sustained impact over time. It provides stability, enabling us to allocate resources more efficiently and plan with confidence,’ she said.

And Marie Evans, managing director at Alliance Healthcare UK, said the wholesaler was ‘excited’ about the collaboration.

This partnership reflects our commitment to investing in the future of pharmacy professionals and fostering a supportive environment for aspiring talent in the field,’ she said.

‘We believe in the importance of investing in the education and wellbeing of aspiring pharmacists, and this partnership aligns perfectly with our values and commitment to making a positive impact on the communities we serve.’