The Welsh Government will invest £3.6m in 2020/21 to attract and train more pharmacists in Wales, it announced yesterday (17 April).

Health minister Vaughan Gething announced that the investment, which will rise to an additional £4.9m by 2023/24, will almost double the number of training places in Wales from around 100 each year to 200 by August 2023.

For the first time in the UK, all trainees in Wales will be employed and trained in a combination of community pharmacies, hospital and GP practices, although the placements will be of different lengths.

This multi-sector training programme will ‘transform’ pharmacy training and provide trainees with greater experience, the Welsh Government said.

Earlier this month, the health minister announced that community pharmacy in Wales would receive a £1.4m cash injection for 2018/19 that would ‘secure further changes’ to the 2019/20 contract.


Pharmacy ‘increasingly important’


Mr Gething said pharmacists in Wales ‘play an increasingly important role in the delivery of healthcare’ and are reducing the burden on GPs by providing advice and treatment.

He added: ‘As demand for their clinical skills increases, we must ensure we are able to a train sufficient number of pharmacists to meet the needs of the NHS in Wales in all sectors of pharmacy practice.

‘This new and distinctive approach to training will meet the growing expectations of UK pharmacy graduates and the long-term needs of the NHS in Wales.’

As part of the UK-wide ‘Train, Work, Live’ campaign, also launched yesterday, the Welsh Government will promote the country as a ‘top choice’ for pharmacy students deciding where to undertake their pre-registration training.

The Welsh campaign will highlight both the benefits of training in the country and the breadth of pharmacy roles available for a continued career there.


A ‘clear signal’


Together, the Government’s campaign and investment send a ‘clear signal that Wales is a great place for pharmacists’, Mr Gething added.

Chief pharmaceutical officer for Wales Andrew Evans said: ‘Pharmacists who choose to come to Wales can benefit from a well-integrated healthcare system, facilitating knowledge-sharing and innovation across a wide range of settings and allowing us to give our patients the best care possible.

‘Our new training programme will ensure that pharmacists have the appropriate skills both to deliver clinical services and to work flexibly between hospitals, GP practices, community pharmacies and other settings where pharmacy professionals can improve the safety and quality of medicines use.’

Mr Evans hopes to attract ‘the highest calibre of pharmacy graduates’ to the country, which boasts ‘consistently high pass-rates’ in pre-registration exams and high levels of satisfaction from trainees.


‘A positive step forward’


Chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) Welsh pharmacy board Suzanne Scott-Thomas welcomed the Government’s commitment to invest in ‘the future of healthcare in Wales’.

She said: ‘Increasing the number of training places and transforming the training of pharmacists prior to registration is a very positive step forward for the NHS and patients in Wales.

‘The announcement will put us on an exciting course of action to attract more pharmacists to train and work in Wales and to ensure a sound foundation for pharmacists through multi-sector experience across the NHS.’

Training across sectors will ‘underpin and support seamless pharmaceutical care for patients in Wales’, she added, while more pharmacists are needed to meet increasing patient demand with a ‘multi-professional approach’ to healthcare.


An ‘expanding role’


Independent pharmacy support group Numark said the investment will ‘revolutionise’ pre-registration training.

A Numark spokesperson said: ‘The announcement is a clear move towards endorsing the future clinical and expanding role of pharmacists, working collaboratively across GP practices to further alleviate GP pressure and time.

‘As a result, this ‘expanding’ role does require the development of new and advanced skills and cross-sector working will be key, allowing pharmacists to take on new and clinical roles.’

The spokesperson added that the ‘collaborative’ relationship between Government, the NHS and community pharmacy in Wales has shown that community pharmacy ‘can and will deliver’ its changing contractual framework.