GPhC publish new pharmacist education and training standards


The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) has published new initial education and training standards for pharmacists. This marks a shift towards ‘clinical’ practice for pharmacists.


It is the most significant change in pharmacy education in a generation.


The standards set out the knowledge, skills, understanding and professional behaviours a student or trainee pharmacist must demonstrate to pass their initial education and training and to join the professional register. The standards also set out the requirements for organisations providing initial education and training.


These changes include:


  • Introducing a new set of learning outcomes that cover the full five years of education and training, and which can link to their continued development after registration.
  • Incorporating the skills, knowledge and attributes for prescribing, to enable pharmacists to independently prescribe from the point of registration.
  • Emphasising the application of science in clinical practice and including a greater focus on the key skills needed for current and future roles – including professional judgement, management of risk, and diagnostic and consultation skills.
  • Making the fifth year of initial education and training a foundation training year with strengthened supervision support, and collaborative working between higher education institutions, statutory education bodies and employers.
  • Having a greater emphasis on equality, diversity and inclusion to combat discrimination and deal with health inequalities.


The GPhC has said that the implementation of these standards will transform the education and training of pharmacists for a generation, so they are able to play a much greater role in providing clinical care to patients and the public from their first day on the register, including through prescribing medicines.


The new standards have been welcomed by the Chief Pharmaceutical Officers for Great Britain: In an open letter they said:


“Today’s publication by the General Pharmaceutical Council of new initial education and training standards for pharmacists marks a fundamental and exciting shift towards clinical practice for pharmacists. It marks the biggest change in pharmacy education since the introduction of a four-year Master’s level degree in 1997, and before that the requirement for a university degree to become a pharmacist in 1970.


“As the heads of the profession across Great Britain, we wholeheartedly welcome these long-anticipated and essential changes and we look forward to this being introduced UK wide shortly.


“While still retaining sufficient scientific training to support rational and logical thinking, the changes to the standards will help to generate new cohorts of pharmacists with enhanced clinical skills, developed across an improved five-year continuum of training before registration, satisfying the ever-increasing demand for high-quality pharmacy professional skills from patients and the NHS.


“This new generation of pharmacists will be independent prescribers from their day of registration and so will be able to play a much bigger part in caring for patients with long term health conditions, in partnership with patients, carers and other members of the healthcare team.


“As heads of the profession, we are also committed to ensuring the existing pharmacist professional workforce can develop their skills as required so that they too can practice at an enhanced clinical level. We must also make sure that postgraduate professional development is fit for purpose and is aligned to these initial education and training reforms.


“We are very grateful to the General Pharmaceutical Council for leading this important work and we would encourage all partners, from Government to employers, universities to statutory education and professional bodies, to work closely together to implement the changes required. Organisations will need to commit further resources to ensure that the changes are implemented quickly and effectively and at the scale and urgent pace that is needed. This includes Governments and statutory education bodies making sure the necessary funds are in place immediately.


“Importantly, bringing current and future students with us along this journey will be critical, demonstrating to them the great career opportunities they will have through this exciting development.


“Thank you to all those pharmacy professionals working to support people during this very challenging pandemic and we hope this is a welcome piece of good news during difficult times.”


Duncan Rudkin, Chief Executive of the GPhC, said:


“Publishing these standards is a significant milestone in our work to transform pharmacists’ initial education and training. These changes will help to achieve ambitious strategies for pharmacy and health across the UK, by enabling newly-qualified pharmacists to play a much greater role in providing clinical care to patients and the public.


“The pandemic has demonstrated the need for pharmacy professionals to be able to take on new roles within the healthcare team and to work flexibly in the full range of healthcare settings.  We, therefore, need to move ahead with implementing these changes as quickly as possible.


“We are very grateful to all of the stakeholders involved for their collaboration and support in developing and finalising the standards. The standards will only be implemented successfully if this collaboration continues, and if the necessary resources, including funding, are in place. We look forward to working together with everyone to achieve the outcome we all want, for the benefit of patients and the public.”


Gail Fleming, RPS Director for Education and Professional Development, said:


“We welcome the publication of the new initial education and training standards from the GPhC, which marks a significant step forward for our profession. The pandemic has shone a light on the impact that pharmacists have, working across a range of sectors as key members of multi-professional teams. These new standards will enable pharmacists to better fulfil their roles as medicines experts and realise their potential as independent prescribers.


“We are delighted that the standards reflect the same domains used in post-registration, which supports a structured and seamless approach to the development of a pharmacist’s career, from initial education and training through to consultant level practice.


“We are pleased that the changes outlined in the standards include improvements relating to equality, diversity and fairness as well as a focus on quality, which will ensure that all trainees experience high-quality placements, particularly in the foundation year.


“It’s essential that the necessary additional funding is provided for these standards, so they can be implemented correctly. We look forward to continuing our work with the GPhC and other stakeholders to ensure that students can fully see how this will affect their learning over the coming years.”