The Scottish Government has invested £3.4 million into an apprentice programme that should lead to 150 pharmacy technicians trained and recruited into general practices, hospitals and community pharmacies this year.

The national pre-registration trainee pharmacy technician scheme will see 50 technicians start in April with another 100 apprentices set to be recruited by the autumn.

The Government said it hoped the new scheme will help to ‘address the growing need for this important staff group across all sectors’ with a ‘particular focus on supporting the pharmacy developments in GP practices across Scotland’.

The funding will go towards ‘salaries and infrastructure’ to ‘support expansion of the technical apprenticeship in pharmacy services,’ the Government explained.

Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish first minister said: ‘Growing our workforce is crucial, which is why we must increase the opportunities for our young people who wish to choose a career in the NHS such as pharmacy, with quality hands-on training to set them on their path.

‘Increasing the number of qualified pharmacy technicians is critical to ensuring a well-qualified workforce.’

Harry McQuillan, CEO at Community Pharmacy Scotland, welcomed the development in pharmacy technician education and training.

‘Strategically, we will be working together to increase the overall pool of qualified pharmacy technicians across Scotland and that should be a benefit to all,’ he said.

‘I am also delighted to see established a Government-supported route into skilled employment for those seeking work. In addition to this new scheme, our network of pharmacy owners themselves are likely to be attracted to this work-based apprenticeship model,’ he added.

The fact that the two-year course gives technicians experience in all three areas of pharmacy will ‘improve’ integration across services and ‘foster professional relationships and communications across boundaries,’ he explained.

Melanie Bryan, chair of the National Pharmacy Technician Group in Scotland, said that Government investment in the pharmacy technician course was ‘great news.’

She said the group was pleased to see the ‘recognition and value’ of the pharmacy technician profession by the Scottish Government.

‘The creation of a national pharmacy technician pipeline is a massive step forward and an integral part of the development of a future workforce plan for pharmacy services in Scotland,’ she said,’ she explained.

Last month, the Scottish Government announced it had allocated additional money to GP practices to recruit more healthcare professionals, including pharmacists, into general practice roles.

The Government said that £80.6m has been allocated to health boards to ‘improve patient care’ by expanding teams within GP practices and to ‘modernise’ systems.