A new pharmacy apprenticeship proposal is to be developed that will ‘take into account’ the concerns raised by the sector last time the concept was mooted, it has been announced.

In April, the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IATE) published a formal proposal to introduce a five-year pharmacy apprenticeship scheme where prospective pharmacists could train on the job rather than through the traditional university-led model.

However, following controversy the IATE board announced in May that it would not progress the proposal until representatives from a wider range of pharmacy sectors were included in the employer group that was developing it and further engagement had taken place with sector stakeholders.

Last week (25 October), arms-length body Skills for Health – which was commissioned by Health Education England (HEE) to support the apprenticeship’s development – confirmed that a second proposal is now in the pipeline following an employer group meeting on 3 October.

The development of the new proposal is expected to continue into 2020 and there will be another public consultation on the plans next year, Skills for Health added.


‘More transparency needed’


Skills for Health said: ‘Acknowledging concerns raised by the pharmacy sector during the initial consultation on the proposed apprenticeship in May 2019 and a stakeholder engagement event in July 2019, the employer group agreed that it would develop a second proposal taking into account the issues and concerns that had been raised.

‘The group agreed that more transparency in the process is needed and further engagement through a longer consultation period is required.’

The original proposal faced criticism from the sector and pharmacy schools, partly due to the scant information the planning document provided and the very short consultation period on the plans.

The ten-day consultation garnered more 6,000 responses after the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) urged pharmacists to have their say.


Group membership


Skills for Health said the employer group will be reviewing its membership to ensure that NHS employers are better represented.

It added that steps are ‘currently being taken to address this’.

Community pharmacy employers already represented on the development group include Boots UK, Rowlands, Lloyds, Superdrug, Well, Asda and Lincolnshire Co-operative.

Pharmacy bodies including the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC), Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) and National Pharmacy Association (NPA) will provide ‘input and advice’ alongside representatives from pharmacy schools, Skills for Health said.


‘Academically robust’


Group co-chairs Claire Flavell, strategic lead at Lincolnshire Talent Academy, United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust and Vanessa Kingsbury, training co-ordinator at Blackwell Medical Services said that the apprenticeship will be ‘as academically robust as the existing route to registration’ because it will require completion of an MPharm.

They said: ‘An integrated degree apprenticeship for pharmacists will provide choice for individuals wanting to train as a pharmacist in parallel to the traditional route in order to widen participation and access to the profession.’

The employer group will also consider the apprenticeship’s ‘financial viability’, including by ‘researching funding opportunities’, Skills for Health added.