Health Education England (HEE) has pledged to invest £15.9m to ‘enhance registered pharmacy professionals’ skills’ as part of a Pharmacy Integration Programme.

The funding hopes to expand frontline pharmacy staff in primary and community care and enable pharmacists to support wider healthcare delivery.

HEE will work in partnership with NHS England and Improvement to deliver the Pharmacy Integration Programme, which will include:

  • Developing a formal portfolio recognition process to identify the existing skills, training and experience gained by pharmacists working in primary care, allowing them to work more flexibly and better support GP services. 
  • Training in independent prescribing for pharmacists working in general practice and community pharmacy.
  • Developing course accreditation processes, to increase access to clinical training courses for pharmacy technicians in primary care.
  • Extending and expanding clinical examination skills training for community pharmacists.
  • Increasing access to educational, prescribing, and clinical supervisors for pharmacy professionals working and training across primary care and community sectors.

Alan Ryan, director of national transformational programmes at HEE, said: ‘This important investment in post-registration clinical skills and support will make a big difference to the pharmacy workforce and career development in primary care.

‘The new development programmes are part of a major reform of pharmacy education and training pathways, led by HEE, to respond to the changing nature of patient care and service delivery in the NHS. 

‘New funded programmes will foster a range of skills and experiences to help pharmacists and pharmacy technicians thrive in multidisciplinary healthcare teams, and meet the demand for clinical care skills, prevention of ill-health and optimal outcomes from medicines in all NHS settings and at home.’

Richard Cattell, deputy chief pharmaceutical officer at NHSE/I added that the programme would help ensure pharmacists are ‘further integrated into wider healthcare delivery’.

He said: ‘This structured postgraduate development demonstrates our commitment to ensuring existing registered pharmacy professionals have access to the same opportunities for further clinical training including independent prescribing qualifications.

‘It properly acknowledges the clinical skills and vast experience of community pharmacists, providing them with a structured route to higher levels of practice.’

In response to the funding, chair of RPS in England Thorrun Govind welcomed the investment and said: 'Access to training for independent prescribing is vital if pharmacists in England are to work routinely as part of multi-disciplinary teams across primary care to extend the provision of clinical services, especially in community pharmacy.

'To make this happen, services need to be put in place as soon as possible so that existing and future prescribers can use their qualifications to benefit patients. When new services are commissioned, the opportunities for pharmacist independent prescribers to improve patient care must always be considered and provided so patients see the right healthcare professional for their needs. 

'Pharmacy teams are already under significant pressure and must be supported with the right skill mix and sufficient staff to be able to adapt to their workload and deliver the care their local population requires.'

Earlier this year, the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) launched a consultation on possible changes to the current requirements for pharmacists to train as independent prescribers. 

The eight-week consultation — open from 28 September until 23 November  is seeking views from pharmacists on suggested changes to enable more pharmacists to begin independent prescriber training sooner.