The universities of Bath and Plymouth have teamed up to offer more pharmacist training places at an additional location, to combat workforce shortages that particularly affects the South West of England.

From this September, pharmacy students will be able to undertake the University of Bath MPharm course at the University of Plymouth, as well as at the existing Bath location.

The expansion of the course will significantly increase the opportunities for students to study pharmacy in South West England, which, according to the Community Pharmacy Workforce Survey 2021, has the highest community pharmacy vacancy rate in the country, with 14% of pharmacist positions unfilled.

And an 8% community pharmacy vacancy rate across England as a whole puts pharmacists on the national shortage occupations list.

As part of the initiative, NHS England, local stakeholders and the largest teaching hospital in Devon and Cornwall, Derriford Hospital, will partner with the universities to deliver the Plymouth-based course, which will cover the same teaching content as at the University of Bath.

Professor Julian Chaudhuri, pro-vice-chancellor (education) at the University of Bath commented that the new partnership ‘brings together the University of Bath’s longstanding expertise in pharmacy education and research with the University of Plymouth’s excellence in providing health and social care education’.

‘This collaboration will give students more opportunities to study a top quality pharmacy course, [and] increase the numbers of pharmacy graduates in the South West, significantly contributing to healthcare within the region,’ he said.

And he noted that it comes during ‘an exciting time for the profession’ as all new pharmacists will become prescribers at the point of registration from 2026, ‘increasing the diversity of roles within the career’.

Professor John Curnow, the University of Plymouth’s deputy vice chancellor, education and student experience, said the university was excited to be part of the partnership.

‘Our pharmacy students will learn in new practice-based and clinical teaching spaces, with consultation rooms and simulation equipment, all at the heart of our campus in the centre of Britain’s Ocean City,’ he said.

‘Adding the pharmacy degree to the options available in Plymouth means we now offer an even broader suite of pathways into careers that will make a tremendously positive difference to the health and wellbeing of people in our region and beyond,’ he added.

The University of Plymouth already offers health and social care courses such as medicine, dentistry, nursing and physiotherapy to more than 4,500 students.