The number of students accepted onto undergraduate pharmacy programmes across the UK has increased 3% in a year, according to latest data from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS).

Community Pharmacy England (CPE) welcomed the rise and hoped the news ‘bodes well’ for recent commitments made by NHS England to expanding pharmacy training.

However, the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) and Company Chemists’ Association (CCA) warned the rise alone was not enough to fix the ongoing ‘workforce crisis’ in community pharmacy.

UCAS has today published its ‘end of cycle’ undergraduate programmes data for 2023.

The figures show the number of students accepted onto pharmacy degree programmes has increased from 4,675 in 2022 to 4,800 in 2023 – a 3% rise in a year.

The number of students accepted are also up more than a third (34%) since 2019 when the data set began and acceptances stood at 3,575.

When broken down, figures show that those aged 18 continue to account for the largest group of students accepted onto pharmacy courses (2,895). Meanwhile, the data also suggests a 15% increase in the number of 19-year-olds accepted onto programmes – up from 890 in 2022 to 1,025 in 2023.

The data follows a commitment from NHS England within its long-term workforce plan to expand training places for pharmacists by 29% by 2028/29. The plan, published in June, also unveiled an ambition to increase pharmacist training places by nearly 50%, to around 5,000.

Responding to the data, Alastair Buxton, director of NHS services CPE, said: ‘The increase in interest for and acceptance on pharmacy degree programmes is great to see.

‘We hope that this bodes well for the recent NHS workforce plan and its commitments towards expanding pharmacy training and increasing places at universities.’

Meanwhile, NPA policy manager Helga Mangion, said: ‘The NPA welcomes the increasing number of acceptances onto pharmacy programmes, but this isn’t enough by itself to fix the workforce crisis in community pharmacy.

‘We continue to argue for more funding to help the community sector deliver great care to patients and a great career for our future pharmacists.’

In addition, Malcolm Harrison, chief executive of the CCA, said: ‘We welcome the rising number of acceptances in pharmacy students across the UK.

‘However, a rising number of acceptances will not, on its own, be sufficient to reverse the community pharmacy workforce crisis, especially given the time it takes to train up a pharmacist.’

Mr Harrison also said there was a lack of detail on how the ambition to increase training places in England will be ‘practically achieved’.

The increase in acceptances comes after The Pharmacist revealed in the summer that the number of applications to study pharmacy across the UK increased by more than a quarter (28%) in a year.