Community pharmacists in England can now apply for one of 327 NHS funded places on a pharmacist independent prescriber course, Health Education England (HEE) has announced. 

The places are available across two courses, which both begin before March 2022, 11 pharmacies schools across England.  

To qualify, pharmacists must be working in England in a community pharmacy, primary care, CCG or in health and justice settings.  

However, pharmacists working in primary care will not be able to apply if they have been employed through the ‘Additional Roles Reimbursement Scheme’ or ‘NHS Primary Care Pharmacy Education Programme’ as these pharmacists are already able to access fully-funded training for independent prescribing. 

In the document announcing the training places, published last week (27 January), HEE explained that eligible pharmacists will be able to choose between two different prescribing courses.  

The first 143 training places are available are on ‘Clinically enhanced independent prescribing provision’ courses, which include additional clinical content, such as clinical health assessment and diagnostics. 

The remaining 184 training places are available as part of a traditional Independent Prescribing course.  

According to HEE, courses run from 8-12 months depending on the provider, and places will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis.  

Thorrun Govind, chair of Royal Pharmaceutical Society England, said: ‘It is great to see this opened up to pharmacists working across community pharmacy, other primary care roles and health and justice care settings. 

‘We have been calling for greater workforce development opportunities for the pharmacy workforce across England, Scotland and Wales for some time, and this training is something to build on for the future. 

‘We hope pharmacists will take up this offer and are enabled to utilise their prescribing qualifications to support patient care, safety and improving access, as well as supporting how the NHS recovers from the pandemic.’ 

She added: ‘Going forward, we hope to work together with partners to support the development of right infrastructure, additional support and resources to help pharmacist prescribers, and guarantee funded protected learning time to further improve the quality of patient care, as called for in our independent prescribing campaign.’ 

Helga Mangion, the National Pharmacy Association's policy manager said: 'Independent prescribing is a potential game-changer, provided there are properly funded NHS services to make good use of the skills and qualifications in community settings.

'The NPA wants pharmacist independent prescribing to become commonplace in community pharmacies so that people can enjoy a more convenient service in respect of health maintenance, long term conditions and acute care.'

Leyla Hannbeck, chief executive of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies said: 'While we support all training and up-skilling of our workforce, it is a fact that training initiatives for community pharmacists would have significantly more value if community pharmacy bodies were consulted about the sector needs first and asked to give insights into what training for our workforce would bring the most benefit to the patients in the communities we serve.

'Current workforce issues include the uneven playing field with GP practices funding that will surely lead to further migration of our workforce into PCN's. Community pharmacy must be given similar funding and the same opportunities as GP practices.'

In a statement published on its website last week (28 January), the Pharmacists Defence Association (PDA) welcomed the opportunity for existing pharmacists to undertake funded training on IP or CEPIP courses.

However, the body raised concerns over barriers which may mean some of those who wish to apply to attend this course find it difficult, especially for those working in certain roles and for locum pharmacists.

It said that for some employed pharmacists the timescales provided will likely be 'too short' to be able to agree the necessary time commitment away from their workplace and to 'arrange a placement for practice-based learning and also secure the required DMP or DPP'.

They also said that for locums it would be 'difficult to engage in this programme with such short notice, as many locums will have long-standing work commitments and would not want to cancel agreed shifts'.