Health Education England (HEE) has announced 3,000 funded places on independent prescribing courses starting between April 2023 and March 2024.

The places will be open to pharmacists working in a variety of settings, including community pharmacists and locums, but does not cover 'backfill' funding for trainees or supervisors.

It is intended to help existing pharmacists to upskill in line with the changes to pre-registration training that will see all new pharmacists qualify as independent prescribers from 2026.

‘Fully using the clinical skills and capabilities of community pharmacists, supported by significant investment in training, is part of a concerted effort across the health system to improve access to care in local communities and address health inequalities,’ HEE said.

Eligible pharmacists can apply to universities listed on the HEE website and will need to demonstrate (as a minimum):

  • The support of an identified designated prescribing practitioner (DPP).
  • An appropriate practice-based learning environment in a prescribing setting that can offer appropriate clinical support.
  • Evidence that they meet the course provider eligibility criteria.
  • Commitment to use the skill within their area of competence and expertise, for the delivery of NHS clinical services as they emerge.

Alan Ryan, deputy chief operating officer for HEE said: ‘Supporting the existing pharmacy workforce to train as independent prescribers is so important – so we have the workforce to develop and deliver new models of prescribing services in pharmacy, and so we continue to support pharmacists to skill-up in line with the reform of the Initial Education and Training of Pharmacists.’

He encouraged pharmacists from across sectors, including community pharmacy and locums, ‘to seize this opportunity’.

Dr Bruce Warner, deputy chief pharmaceutical officer at NHS England, said: ‘From September 2026, all newly qualified pharmacists will be independent prescribers on the day of registration, and this increase in the places for existing pharmacists including locums makes this crucial opportunity more widely available across the whole network.’

In September, Dr Warner spoke about the need to guard against a ‘two-tier’ profession when all newly qualified pharmacists graduate as independent prescribers from 2026.

But pharmacists have raised concerns about the lack of 'backfill' funding for trainees and DPPs, as well as around finding the time to train.

HEE said that in line with other NHS-funded IP trainees, ‘backfill’ funding was not available at this time.

It added that it is working with multi-professional stakeholders from community pharmacy, primary and secondary care sectors, to explore how to support increased access to, and capacity of, prescribing supervision for pharmacists who wish to complete an independent prescribing course.