NHS England's chief pharmaceutical officer Keith Ridge has responded to concerns that the Pharmacy Integration Fund's (PhIF) focus on training is 'insulting' to pharmacists.

One part of the funding, which was announced by NHS England on 20 October and will provide £42m in 2017/18 for pharmacy improvement, will be dedicated to further training for pharmacy staff who wish to further develop their skills.

Royal Pharmaceutical Society English Pharmacy Board chair Sandra Gidley said she was ‘concerned’ about the suggestion that more training would be involved in the PhIF following the All-Party Pharmacy Group on 16 March 2016.

‘Pharmacists are ready, willing and waiting to embrace new roles and it is quite frankly insulting to suggest that we always need new training,’ she said.

But Dr Ridge told The Pharmacist that although he was ‘sure Sandra will have her view’ about the issue, the need to ensure that the workforce is ready for taking on clinical services is ‘entirely appropriate’.

‘As you can imagine, in the job I do, I need to do my best to make sure that training is available to the current pharmacy workforce so they can deliver high-quality, effective, safe care to patients. That's nothing to do with suggesting they're not ready for this. But we also do need to make sure they have the opportunities to being those skills up to date,’ he said.

Dr Ridge highlighted the work that has been done in recent years to ensure that the training at undergraduate level as well as in pre-registration is ‘fit for purpose’, and that every pharmacist’s consultation and e-learning skills are up to date.

‘Ideally the undergraduate degree would be integrated but we've got some way to go around that. If I had my way, that's what would happen, but we shall see,’ he said.

'Doing things differently'

The PhIF will be used to help pharmacy staff work on skills such as clinical leadership, urgent care assessments and independent prescribing to better integrate with the rest of primary care.

It is hoped that the investment will help establish pharmacy as the primary care leader of long-term stable care, as the first port of call for emergency care, and as a strong connection with community services such as care homes.

Head of community pharmacy at NHS England, Anne Joshua told The Pharmacist: ‘I think a lot of pharmacists feel that they really want to change – they want to do things differently; to work with new care models.

‘One of the priorities in the pharmacy integration fund is workforce development, particularly for community pharmacists and pharmacy technicians.’

Deputy chief pharmaceutical officer, Dr Bruce Warner said: ‘I think a lot of this [the PhIF] is around giving pharmacists and community pharmacists and their teams and technicians the confidence to take on new roles, because, by definition, a lot of these are new roles, and if we can use the integration fund to help give them that confidence that has to be a good thing.’