A mental health training programme for experienced pharmacists across England has been extended for another two years, Health Education England (HEE) has announced.

Developed in 2021 in response to the NHS Long Term Plan and the NHS People Plan, the Specialist Mental Health Pharmacist Training Pathway aims to develop the skills and experience of pharmacists working in new roles within community mental health services.

‘These new roles are a key part of a multidisciplinary team within new models of integrated primary and community mental health care for adults with severe mental health problems,’ HEE explained.

The first cohort of 50 pharmacists are due to complete their training next month.

HEE has now pledged to fund this pathway for an additional two years, extending training to another 70 pharmacists per year.

‘The University of Bradford will work alongside Bradford District Care NHS Foundation Trust to deliver the pathway to support the journey to advanced level practice for experienced pharmacists,’ HEE said.

Shane Costigan, pharmacy dean at HEE South East, commented: ‘We are delighted to be building on the success of the first cohort of the training pathway, and to be working with the team at the University of Bradford to support the development of more pharmacists working in community mental health teams to deliver integrated, patient-centred care to people with severe mental illness.’

Matthew Elswood, national specialty adviser for Mental Health Pharmacy at NHS England, said the training has been evaluated and improved ‘to ensure our workforce has the best support available to meet the challenges of optimising the use of medicines for people with severe and enduring mental illness’.

The extended training offer is a ‘very positive and welcome development’, he said.

The Specialist Mental Health Training Pathway is a tailored 12-month programme designed to develop pharmacists’ knowledge of medicines optimisation, initiation and personalisation for patients with complex mental illnesses.

The programme consists of 10 learning modules, containing physical and mental health knowledge, skills and assessments, which support the journey to advanced level practice for pharmacists. This new community-based offer includes support for medicines management and improved physical health care.

University of Bradford associate professor Diane Webb, who is leading the project, said: 'It is with a sense of pride we are continuing to play our part developing pharmacist leaders for the new roles in primary and community mental health teams throughout England.

‘Continuous evaluation and adaptation of the pathway will drive innovation, collaboration, communication and education using distance learning and team-based learning pedagogy.

‘The University of Bradford is the only university to offer this kind of advanced training. Ultimately the training will ensure the workforce is ready for the new roles and provide excellent shared care with patients who have severe mental illness.’

The online national programme has been 'designed to help pharmacists connect with each other to learn and develop long-lasting networks', explained Doctor Gemma Quinn, director of studies and postgraduate lead at the University of Bradford. 'This pathway will enable them to provide excellent care for complex patients, and empower them to lead innovation and service improvement within our NHS.'

Registration for the second cohort of the Specialist Mental Health Pharmacist Training Pathway at the University of Bradford is open until 9pm on March 5.

More information on the pathway and eligibility can be found on the Health Education England website.

If you would like to discuss the training further, you can email [email protected].