Health Education England (HEE) has launched a new pilot scheme that will train hundreds of community pharmacists to optimise medicines and help care for people with severe mental health conditions. 

The 12-month training programme – which was launched in partnership with the University of Bradford – is aimed at pharmacists working in community mental health teams and will look to improve their knowledge of mental health.  

Announcing the programme last week (23 March), HEE said the teams ‘will reinvigorate the overall mental health pharmacist workforce and their mental health expertise will help to spread learning across the new pharmacy workforce’. 

The programme will begin in April this year and will involve education and assessments around both physical and mental health and medicines management.  

There are currently 50 pre-funded places available as part of the NHS England and NHS Improvement Mental Health Implementation Plan 2019-2023/24.  

The aim is to train 260 specialist mental health pharmacists to work within multidisciplinary community-based mental health teams in England by 2024. 

These pharmacists will be responsible for medicines optimisation for people with severe mental health problems, particularly those with complex co-morbid physical health problems, HEE said.  

Commenting on the pilot, HEE’s national programme manager Aurora Diaz Lopez said: ‘The NHS Mental Health Implementation Plan outlines an ambition to expand the mental health pharmacist workforce to improve the care provided to adults in the community with severe mental illness.’  

As part of the NHS People Plan, published in July 2020, HEE committed to training mental health pharmacists alongside other healthcare professionals to continue ‘investment in training the future mental health workforce to support significant expansion in psychological therapies’