Pharmacists could be retrained as doctors through an additional three-year course, under plans being drawn up by Government officials, according to reports.

The proposals, which would also allow paramedics to retrain, would be possible following the UK's exit from the European Union, because Britain would no longer have to comply with EU regulations stipulating doctors must complete medical degrees lasting five years.

The Times reported on Friday (31 January) that the Governement will say it is drawing up the plans because it wants to fast track training for healthcare professionals who want to progress without taking a long period out of their career.

The paper, which said it had seen the proposals by the Department of Health and Social Care, said the Government will also say the new training is necessary to improve NHS recruitment. 

The measures are expected to be announced in full this week.

Plans could present challenge

Royal Pharmaceutical Society president Sandra Gidley said: 'The NHS Long-Term Plan recognises that pharmacists are crucial to improving patient care, safety and delivering the maximum value from the £18 billion annual spend on medicines by the NHS.

 'Pharmacists are proud of what they do and delivering the best care for patients means making the most of the skills from across the health professions as part of a multidisciplinary team.

 'They are playing an increasingly clinical role across the NHS and have the potential to do more with the right support. There is growing demand across the NHS for the expertise of pharmacists, and increasing recognition of their unique skills. 

'Up to 6,000 pharmacists will be needed to support Primary Care Networks, many of which are struggling to recruit into new roles quickly enough. Diverting staff from one profession into another could make this even more of a challenge.

Workforce plan needs 'strategic approach'

 Ms Gidley continued: 'We have welcomed discussions on the NHS People Plan - but proposals on retraining have not been part of the conversation to date.

 'There must be a strategic approach to workforce planning to avoid adding further pressures on already hard-working frontline staff.

 'What we’d like to see is a new approach to training early careers pharmacists at Foundation level so they can take up new roles across the NHS, and funding for continued professional development for all pharmacists.

 'We would welcome early discussions with the Government, NHS and education leaders to learn more about what changes are being considered.

 'We also look for further detail from the Government on its vision for a future relationship with the EU on other key issues such as science and research, and ensuring continued patient access to medicines.'