Pharmacy in Practice announces new Clinical Director

Stephen-Andrew Whyte

Pharmacy in Practice has announced the recruitment of its first-ever Clinical Director. Stephen-Andrew Whyte will take on the role of providing innovative leadership to further bolster the training offers provided by Pharmacy in Practice.

Stephen is a registered pharmacist and advanced clinical practitioner with experience in critical care, emergency care and general paediatrics. He has a background in paediatric and neonatal pharmacy and healthcare education.

Stephen was the first pharmacist in the UK to be recognised as an advanced clinical practitioner, and the first pharmacist to undertake a HEE Clinical Fellowship in Urgent and Acute Care. He also led an innovative pilot training pharmacists as advanced clinical practitioners in urgent and emergency care.

Stephen has just ended a two-and-a-half-year period as the course director for the MSc Advanced Clinical Practice (Child) course at London South Bank University and will shortly take up the position of Professional Lead for Advanced Clinical Practice at Great Ormond Street Hospital, London.

Stephen is a member of the General Pharmaceutical Council, a Fellow of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, an Affiliate member of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health and an associate member of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine.

His current research interests include advanced practice curriculum design and implementation and technological mental health interventions for children and young people. 

Clinical Director of Pharmacy in Practice Stephen-Andrew Whyte commented:

“I am delighted to have this opportunity to put my varied experiences to good use in this new position of Clinical Director at Pharmacy in Practice. I look forward to shaping the future of pharmacy education and training.” 

Director of Pharmacy in Practice Johnathan Laird said:

“I am delighted to welcome Stephen onto the Pharmacy in Practice team as our first-ever Clinical Director. Stephen has an exemplary career to date and has shown considerable leadership within the education scene particularly around competence based training and advanced practice.

“Whilst there are many reasons to be excited to work with Stephen I particularly admire and appreciate how he has sought to influence education beyond his own profession. Whilst we are both passionate about creating a well-respected pharmacist-led training provider we also need to look beyond our own profession to show leadership. Pharmacists have so much to offer but we must first understand and carve out our own professional identity.

“We have plans to deploy a large library of online learning on PIP. Stephen will guide this work and ensure quality is built in from the outset. Stephen’s experience will bring an innovative student-centred approach.

“The world has changed and the playing field has levelled giving organisations like Pharmacy in Practice the opportunity to lead within their niche. I feel that the new environment has meant that we should question everything in terms of how we connect and build our networks. Remote working is now the norm and remote learning is no different.

“Pharmacy, and in particular community pharmacy, requires significant investment. Pharmacists and their teams deserve the infrastructure, time and expertise to truly realise their potential. We will drive this investment into the sector over the coming months and years.

“In the new year, we will take 60 independent pharmacist prescribers through a novel micro-credential programme. In my view, this will set a significant precedent and change the way community pharmacists in particular seek to develop their professional competence portfolio.

“Independent prescribing and autonomous practice by pharmacists is certainly here to stay and we will be ready to support.”

PDA respond to calls to temporarily halt GP primary care pharmacy recruitment

The Pharmacist Defence Association have responded to calls from Community Pharmacy Scotland (CPS) to temporarily halt the recruitment of pharmacists and pharmacy technicians to GP primary care roles in Scotland.

The PDA has objected to these proposals indicating that their opinion would be that it is inappropriate to ‘block’ pharmacists from exploring opportunities in other sectors.

PDA Director Paul Day commented:

“This would be a mechanism used to prevent those individuals from leaving their roles in community pharmacy. The PDA are disappointed with what appears to be another high-profile example of the representatives of community pharmacy employers seeking to avoid their members’ responsibility for improving the terms and working conditions they offer to pharmacists.

“This latest development in Scotland follows a joint report in June from the three major UK community pharmacy employer bodies, AIMp, CCA and NPA which noted “reasons cited for colleagues leaving the profession are complex and multifaceted. They include concerns about pay, excessive workload and pressure, inflexible working hours, and a lack of opportunities for career progression”, but failed to commit to, or even to recommend, any actions by employers to improve these conditions.

“Employed pharmacists are increasingly aware of the reduction in the value of the pay being offered by community pharmacy employers. They understand that unless pay increases keep up with inflation the buying power of their salary reduces in real terms. Many pharmacy employers promote the belief that there is a significant shortage of pharmacists, yet then continue with an approach to pay that will further reduce the real-term value of the pay they offer. This defies the basic laws of economics that if demand outstrips supply, then “prices”, or in this case “pay” rates, should increase.

“However, levels of pay are not the only concern and it is widely known that some pharmacists have left community pharmacy for roles practicing elsewhere in the health system. Although some of these roles are lower paid they are more attractive overall due to the mix of job content, environment and working patterns when compared to roles in community pharmacy.

“The PDAs Safer Pharmacies Charter and annual Safer Pharmacies Survey highlight other areas of significant concern to pharmacists, but to date no major community pharmacy employer has agreed to ensure their pharmacies meet the basic safety standards detailed in the charter. The PDA believe that multiple chains should not ignore that some locums publicly state that they will not work in certain branches, or for entire companies, because they believe the conditions in those pharmacies are unacceptable.

“The PDA believe responsible employers faced with this reality would reflect hard on what that means, identify the causes of such concerns, and improve the situation. Instead, the representatives of community pharmacy employers seem to consider everything else except addressing those root causes that are within their control. Many promote the ideology of being an employer of choice, however, the reality appears to be quite the opposite. Therefore, It is not a surprise that some may struggle to find pharmacists prepared to be employed for the rates they want to pay and in the conditions in which they expect pharmacists to practice.

“Attempting to restrict pharmacists’ career options, so that individuals don’t have alternative opportunities is not the right way to recruit and retain more employed pharmacists in the community pharmacy workforce.

“Community pharmacy employers should focus on improving the attractiveness of the jobs they offer instead.

“Improving the balance between the focus on patient care and safety vs. profit; levels of remuneration and workplace pressure; and the level of respect for the pharmacist as a clinical health professional are all examples of factors that are well within the control of employers.”

It is worth noting that the RPS disagreed with the calls from CPS to temporarily halt GP primary care pharmacy recruitment.

GPhC announce registration assessment results

The GPhC has announced a pass rate of 82% for those sitting the July 2021 registration assessment.

A total of 2907 candidates sat the registration assessment across three sittings on 27, 28 and 29 July 2021, with 2371 candidates passing the assessment; an overall pass rate of 82%. Since 2011, pass rates for the registration assessment have ranged from 72% to 95%.

July 2021 summary statistics

CandidatesNumber% of total
Total number of candidates2907100%
Number of first-time sitters262590%
(of which were provisionally registered)(259)(9%)
Number of second time sitters2248%
Number of third time sitters582%
Candidate performance – pass rates   
First sitting candidates – pass218975%
(of which were provisionally registered – pass)(172)(6%)
Second time sitters – pass1435%
Third time sitters – pass391%
Individual sitting performance  
27 July – pass85685%
28 July – pass88385%
29 July – pass63274%
Overall pass 237182%
Overall fail53618%

Registration assessment results: March 2021

Total sittingTotal passingPass rate
March 20212666235288%

Registration assessment results 2011-2019 (June sittings)

Pass rates are rounded to the nearest whole number.

Registration yearTotal sittingTotal passingPass rate

The registration assessment papers were developed by experienced pharmacists and assessment experts. Questions were written by practising pharmacists, then the standard of each question is set by standards setters, all of whom are practising pharmacists with current knowledge of pre-registration trainees and/or recently registered pharmacists.

Papers were then set by an appointed body of pharmacists and assessment experts, the Board of Assessors. All questions and papers were mapped on to the GPhC’s registration assessment framework to ensure they reflect the practice of a day one pharmacist.

After a sitting, the performance of all questions and papers as a whole in that particular sitting were analysed and, using statistical methods applied across health professional examinations, the pass mark for each paper was then confirmed and candidates were awarded passes or fails. Candidates who passed both papers passed overall.

The Board of Assessors set the passing standard, not the percentage of candidates who pass the assessment. This means that candidates were not being measured against each other or selected to pass or fail according to where they sit in the cohort of all candidates. 

The sittings on 27th, 28th and 29th July were reviewed and marked separately from each other. The pass marks and pass rates for the registration assessments held on each day were not compared against each other and then adjusted. Separate sets of candidates sat each of these assessments. While pass rates might vary between the cohorts through differing individual performances, the standard to pass remains the same for both cohorts.

Director of the Pharmacist Defence Assoication commented:

“The PDA congratulate all those who have passed the exam, welcome new pharmacists to the profession, and we look forward to supporting our members as they settle into their careers. We appreciate the hard work of supervisors and others who have supported exam candidates, and we will always remember that this year’s cohort undertook their entire pre-reg year during a pandemic.

“In addition to continuing to work with those who passed and have become Newly Qualified pharmacists, the PDA also offers a free “Potential Pharmacist” membership for those who will be resitting the exam at a future date.

“Some exam candidates were already practicing on a provisional basis, and any from that group who did not pass will now cease to be provisional pharmacists.  We encourage their employers to do all they can to keep these MPharm qualified individuals employed in alternate roles until they hopefully pass at their second attempt.

“The PDA Education Hub online revision programmes have received positive feedback from pre-reg and prov-reg members in helping them to prepare for their assessment sittings. Our final revision programme of the year commences on Wednesday 15th September and we look forward to welcoming PDA members to the course online and helping them to prepare for November 2021 exams.”

Claire Anderson, RPS President, said:

“RPS would like to congratulate candidates passing the registration assessment today. Achieving a pass rate of 82% –  the second highest since 2016 – is testament to the hard work of pre-registration candidates through adversity. As well as having to sit an online exam for the first time, candidates had the COVID-19 pandemic to contend with.

“We understand that failing an assessment can be disheartening and so we are also able to support those who may have not passed on this occasion. RPS can help them think through their next steps and prepare for a future assessment, or other career options.”

Further information on how papers are created and marked can be found on the registration assessment pages of our website.

MHRA approves Pfizer and AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccines for booster doses

The Medicine Healthcare Regulatory Authority (MHRA) has provided an update on booster vaccines for Covid-19 and in doing so have approved the use of both the Pfizer and Astra Zeneca Covid-19 vaccines for booster doses.

The MHRA has said it will be for the JVCI to advise on whether booster jabs will be given and if so, which vaccines should be used.

The current supply of the Covid-19 vaccines made by Pfizer and AstraZeneca has been authorised on an emergency use basis by the MHRA under Regulation 174 of the Human Medicine Regulations 2012 and the changes today have been made to the Regulation 174 Product Information only. Both vaccines are also authorised under Conditional Marketing Authorisations (CMAs) but changes to these would follow a different procedure. Vaccines covered by CMAs can also be used as part of a deployment programme via “off-label” use under a prescriber’s direction.

This regulatory decision follows a careful review of available data on safety and effectiveness of booster or supplementary vaccine doses by the MHRA and the independent Commission on Human Medicines (CHM), which advises the government.

Dr June Raine, MHRA Chief Executive said:

“We are committed to getting safe and effective Covid-19 vaccines to the UK public. This means ensuring that existing Covid-19 vaccines can continue to be used in the most effective way possible.

“We know that a person’s immunity may decline over time after their first vaccine course. I am pleased to confirm that the Covid-19 vaccines made by Pfizer and AstraZeneca can be used as safe and effective booster doses. This is an important regulatory change as it gives further options for the vaccination programme, which has saved thousands of lives so far. It will now be for the JVCI to advise on whether booster jabs will be given and if so, which vaccines should be used.

“We have in place a comprehensive safety surveillance strategy for monitoring the safety of all UK-approved Covid-19 vaccines and this surveillance will include booster jabs.”

Elements of this story have been shared under the Open Government license.

JCVI announce a decision on Covid-19 vaccines for children aged 12 to 15

The Joint Committee on vaccination (JCVI) has reviewed the evidence on vaccinating children aged 12 to 15 who do not have underlying health conditions that put them at increased risk from severe Covid-19.

The assessment by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) is that the health benefits from vaccination are marginally greater than the potential known harms. However, the margin of benefit is considered too small to support universal vaccination of healthy 12 to 15-year-olds at this time.

It is not within the JCVI’s remit to consider the wider societal impacts of vaccination, including educational benefits. The government may wish to seek further views on the wider societal and educational impacts from the Chief Medical Officers of the UK 4 nations.

Given the very low risk of serious Covid-19 disease in otherwise healthy 12 to 15 year olds, considerations on the potential harms and benefits of vaccination are very finely balanced and a precautionary approach was agreed.

When deciding on childhood immunisations, the JCVI has consistently maintained that the main focus should be the benefits to children themselves, balanced against any potential harms to them from vaccination.

Professor Wei Shen Lim, Chair of Covid-19 Immunisation for the JCVI, said:

“Children aged 12 to 15 years old with underlying health conditions that put them at higher risk of severe Covid-19 should be offered Covid-19 vaccination. The range of underlying health conditions that apply has recently been expanded.

“For otherwise healthy 12 to 15 year old children, their risk of severe Covid-19 disease is small and therefore the potential for benefit from Covid-19 vaccination is also small. The JCVI’s view is that overall, the health benefits from Covid-19 vaccination to healthy children aged 12 to 15 years are marginally greater than the potential harms.

“Taking a precautionary approach, this margin of benefit is considered too small to support universal Covid-19 vaccination for this age group at this time. The committee will continue to review safety data as they emerge.”

The UK government alongside the Scottish Government, Welsh Assembly and Northern Ireland Assembly have confirmed it will seek further advice from the four Chief Medical Officers on the Covid-19 vaccination of young people aged 12 to 15 with Covid-19 vaccines, following the advice of the independent Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).

UK health ministers from across the four nations have today written to the Chief Medical Officers to request they begin the process of assessing the broader impact of universal COVID-19 vaccination in this age group.

They will now convene experts and senior leaders in clinical and public health to consider the issue. They will then present their advice to ministers on whether a universal programme should be taken forward.

People aged 12 to 15 who are clinically vulnerable to Covid-19 or who live with adults who are at increased risk of serious illness from the virus are already eligible for a Covid-19 vaccine and are being contacted by the NHS, to be invited to come forward. The JCVI has advised that this offer should be expanded to include more children aged 12 to 15, for example, those with sickle cell disease or type 1 diabetes.

Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said:

“Our COVID-19 vaccines have brought a wide range of benefits to the country, from saving lives and preventing hospitalisations, to helping stop infections and allowing children to return to school.

“I am grateful for the expert advice that I have received from the independent Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.

“People aged 12 to 15 who are clinically vulnerable to the virus have already been offered a COVID-19 vaccine, and today we’ll be expanding the offer to those with conditions such as sickle cell disease or type 1 diabetes to protect even more vulnerable children.

“Along with Health Ministers across the four nations, I have today written to the Chief Medical Officers to ask that they consider the vaccination of 12 to 15 year olds from a broader perspective, as suggested by the JCVI.

“We will then consider the advice from the Chief Medical Officers, building on the advice from the JCVI, before making a decision shortly.”

Scottish Health Minister Humza Yousaf said:

“I want to thank the JCVI for today’s advice regarding vaccination for 12 -15 year olds.

“While the JCVI has agreed that the benefits marginally outweigh the risks they are not yet prepared to recommend universal vaccination of 12-15 year olds, however, they have suggested that Health Ministers may wish to ask their respective CMOs to explore the issue further, taking into consideration broader educational and societal impacts. Therefore, I have agreed with the other three UK Health Ministers to write a letter asking the four Chief Medical Officers to consider this latest guidance and explore whether there is additional evidence to suggest it would be beneficial to offer vaccination to all 12 – 15 year olds. We have asked for this further work to be conducted as soon as possible.

“A further update will be issued once these discussions have taken place.

“In the meantime, we will offer the vaccine to those children and young people currently recommended.

“The recent increase in cases of Covid-19 means it remains crucial that everyone who is offered a vaccination takes up the offer.”

Northern Ireland Health Minister Robin Swann:

“I welcome the extension of the vaccination programme to include a wider group of children aged 12-15 years of age with underlying medical conditions. The importance of vaccination is evident and I would urge those who are eligible to get vaccinated as soon as possible to help protect themselves and those around them.

“I am also grateful for the JCVI advice on 12-15 year olds and agree that this issue warrants further consideration. It is entirely appropriate that our most senior medical advisers take forward this piece of work urgently. I look forward to seeing their considerations in the near future.”

Welsh Government Health Minister Eluned Morgan said:

“I would like to thank the JCVI for fully considering the issue of vaccinating 12-15 year olds and for taking the care to form a balanced view.  Our intention as it has been from the start of the pandemic is to follow the science and evidence, and I have asked my Chief Medical Officer to provide guidance at the earliest opportunity on the clinical and wider health benefits of vaccinating this age group.”

The independent medicines regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), has approved the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for people aged 12 and over after they met strict standards of safety and effectiveness.

The Health and Social Care Secretary, Sajid Javid, has asked the NHS to put preparations in place to roll out vaccinations to 12 to 15 year olds, should it be recommended by the Chief Medical Officers.

If this group is offered the vaccine, parental or carer consent will be sought, just as with other school immunisation programmes.

The vaccination programme has so far provided protection to over 48 million people over the age of 16 across the UK – including over 48 million first doses and over 43 million second doses.

The latest data from Public Health England and Cambridge University shows vaccines have saved more than 105,000 lives and prevented 143,600 hospitalisations and 24 million cases in England.

Elements of this story have been shared under the Open Government license.

RPS disagree with calls to temporarily halt GP pharmacy recruitment

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) has commented on the position statement released by Community Pharmacy Scotland earlier this week.

In particular, they have said that they disagree with the call to temporarily halt the recruitment of pharmacists and pharmacy technicians to GP practice roles within Scotland.

Andrew Carruthers, Chair of the Scottish Pharmacy Board, said:

“Pharmacy professionals should be involved wherever there are medicines: this includes community pharmacies, hospitals and GP practices. Ensuring patients have access to pharmacists in all settings is an important part of delivering safe and effective care.

“We disagree with stopping the recruitment of pharmacy professionals in GP practices because we do not want to see restrictions on individuals’ career choices. Many pharmacists have benefited and continue to benefit from working in multiple settings, and they should be supported to make choices that support their professional development aspirations.

“However, we do think it is essential that there is meaningful and robust pharmacy workforce planning in place which takes into account all sectors, skill mix requirements, and workforce changes resulting from new services and digital improvements. We also need better use of pharmacy teams, better skill mix and better use of technology to help reduce the wider issues and pressures that are impacting on NHS services. It is also important to promote pharmacy as a career to bring more people into the profession.

“Finally, we would encourage community pharmacy employers to join the RPS commitment to improving pharmacists’ wellbeing by signing the RPS inclusion and wellbeing pledge, and taking action to improve the working environment for community pharmacists.”