NHS England will work with the General Medical Council (GMC) to allow pharmacists and some other healthcare professionals to train as medics under a shortened medical degree programme, it has been announced.

This would be possible due to the UK’s position outside the European Union, which provides greater flexibility to recognise prior learning and experience towards attaining a degree, beyond the one year currently recognised for entry to graduate degree programmes, NHS England has said.

But healthcare professionals undertaking this type of training would still need to achieve all the usual required standards and outcomes for graduates set by the GMC.

The news comes in the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan published last week.

The plan, which has been highly anticipated, also included proposals for a pharmacy apprenticeship and an extension of the Additional Roles Reimbursement Scheme (ARRS) in primary care.

On its plans for a shortened medical degree programme, NHS England has said that it will explore options with the GMC and medical schools to develop such a programme for some existing healthcare professionals, including pharmacists and paramedics.

It said that individuals and employers would benefit from faster routes to registration and being able to enter the medical workforce more quickly.

And it said that, because programmes can be delivered over a shorter timeframe, such a degree would also free up capacity within higher education institutes and clinical placements.

Details of what a shortened degree would include and how long it would take have not yet been released, but president of the Primary Care Pharmacy Association (PCPA) Graham Stretch said that as long as the plan was ‘carefully managed’, exempting pharmacists who train as medics from certain medical degree modules they had already covered, such as pharmacokinetics, ‘would make perfect sense’.

Concerns have been raised however about the impact of the plan on the already overstretched pharmacist workforce.

A spokesperson from the Guild of Healthcare Pharmacists said that the organisation was ‘somewhat perplexed’ about the plan’s juxtaposition of the need for more pharmacists alongside the promotion of a scheme where they can leave the profession to become medics.