Registration is now open for new clinical skills training for community pharmacists, with Health Education England (HEE) funding 10,000 places.

The training is ‘to further support the clinical role of community pharmacists in NHS primary care services and improve access to patient care,’ HEE explained.

It had been due to launch for winter 2022/23 but HHE have said this was delayed for 'a range of details to be finalised'.

The training is open post-registration to community pharmacists in England, including part-time staff and locums, who ‘will have the opportunity to build on their existing clinical examination and consultation skills - to assess, treat and manage common health problems,’ HEE said.

‘The training offers a range of clinical skills modules, with the aim of supplementing the existing clinical skills of community pharmacists to deal with a variety of presenting symptoms.’

It comes as people increasingly choose to visit community pharmacy for clinical care from a pharmacist which is provided through services such as the NHS Blood Pressure Check Service for the over-40s and NHS Community Pharmacist Consultation Service involving referrals from general practice and urgent and emergency care settings.

‘Pharmacist roles have evolved significantly in response to rapid changes in healthcare and pharmacy practice and the growing demand in the NHS for clinical, patient-facing, pharmacist practitioners across all sectors,’ HEE said.

‘To help meet the changing demands of healthcare and patients, the NHS is equipping community pharmacists with the skills and knowledge to deliver safe clinical NHS services as part of primary healthcare teams. This will enable them to play a broader role in providing clinical care, benefiting patients and enhancing career progression.’

Pharmacists will be able to tailor the training programme to their personal or professional interests.

The training will include an initial, compulsory module on history taking and identification of serious conditions, which will be available online only as a self-directed programme.

Pharmacists will also be able to choose a specialist module in dermatology, cardiology, paediatrics, or ear, nose and throat (ENT).

The training is designed to be complementary to independent prescribing training and can be completed prior to or after independent prescribing training courses.

The module content will be delivered online, with optional face-to-face attendance for pharmacists who would find this beneficial.

Pharmacists can complete the training at a pace and time of their choice, with face-to-face workshops scheduled to accommodate pharmacist working patterns.

HEE told The Pharmacist: 'Pharmacists must complete the pre-required gateway module assessment on history taking and identification of serious conditions. On passing the gateway module assessment, learners will be eligible to access one further module from dermatology, cardiology, ear, nose and throat (ENT) and paediatrics. Each module takes an average of 45 minutes to complete.'

Alan Ryan, deputy chief operating officer at HEE, said: ‘This new clinical examination skills training offer has been designed to directly support the training needs identified through engagement with community pharmacists and community pharmacy leaders, drawing on their experiences of the changing landscape of clinical activities in the community pharmacy setting.

‘This training offers a focused range of clinical skills training modules that will increase the confidence of community pharmacists to manage the types of clinical cases that are increasingly presenting in the community pharmacy setting.’

David Webb, chief pharmaceutical officer at NHS England, added: ‘I’m delighted we’re launching the next phase of the Pharmacy Integration Programme training and development for community pharmacists. It’s exciting to see how this is developing into specialist areas such as cardiology, which matches with our future plans.

‘The offer of clinical examination skills training supports the clinical future and career progression for pharmacists, either as a skills refresh for existing prescribers who wish to extend their practice, or to help pharmacists support newly qualified prescribers, or as a step towards independent prescribing training.’

The offer of 10,000 module places, co-ordinated by HEE with the Pharmacy Integration Programme at NHS England, will be delivered by Cliniskills until March 2024.

Further information can also be found on the HEE website.

Last August, the deputy chief pharmaceutical officer for England spoke about the need to guard against a ‘two-tier’ profession with all newly qualified pharmacists graduating as independent prescribers from 2026.