GPhC announce major reforms to pharmacist education and training


The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) Council has approved new standards for the initial education and training of pharmacists.


The GPhC has said that the implementation of these standards will transform the education and training of pharmacists, 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.


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. They also set out requirements for organisations providing initial education and training.

Key changes


The standards introduce a number of important changes to ensure pharmacists are equipped for their future roles.  These changes include:


  • Incorporating the skills, knowledge and attributes for prescribing, to enable pharmacists to independently prescribe from the point of registration.
  • Introducing a new set of learning outcomes that will be used to assess the full five years of education and training, and which can link to a continuum of development into post-registration.
  • Emphasising the application of science in clinical practice and including a greater focus on key skills needed for current and future roles, including professional judgement, management of risk, diagnostic and consultation skills (including for remote consultations).
  • Making the fifth year of initial education and training a foundation training year with strengthened supervision and 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 address health inequalities.


The GPhC has said that these standards have been developed through extensive consultation and engagement with all key stakeholders over the last few years, including a major public consultation.


At the December Council meeting, Council members considered the changes that had been made to the standards in response to the feedback received from stakeholders, including from the Advisory Group. The Advisory Group includes representatives from key organisations and stakeholder groups and is chaired by GPhC Council members Rose Marie Parr and Arun Midha. The role of the Advisory Group is to advise the GPhC and PSNI Councils on the standards and their implementation.

Implementing the standards


The GPhC will now work with the Advisory Group, and directly with the statutory education bodies, higher education institutions, the NHS in each country of Great Britain, and other employers, to develop a transition plan for implementing the standards in stages over the coming years.


The GPhC Council has agreed that the changes, including independent prescribing from the point of registration, will be introduced at the earliest possible opportunity, taking account of the knowledge and skills student and trainee pharmacists, will be developing and making sure the necessary assurances, governance and supervision are in place to appropriately manage patient safety.

GPhC Chair Nigel Clarke said:


“These once-in-a-generation reforms will enable future pharmacists to take on new and extended clinical roles and meet the needs of the public and the NHS. In the future, pharmacists will be able to independently prescribe from when they join the register, with appropriate support.


“Universities, employers and statutory education bodies will also be working together in new ways to give student pharmacists more clinical experience and provide enhanced support and quality assurance across all five years of education and training.


“We would like to thank all of the key stakeholders involved for their help and support to get us to this point, and we will continue to work very closely with them to implement these significant changes.  We know implementing these reforms won’t be easy, but successfully delivering these reforms together will bring long-term benefits for the health service and patients and will help to meet the ambitions of governments and the NHS in each country across the UK. “


Dr Keith Ridge CBE, Chief Pharmaceutical Officer for England, said:


“This important and welcome decision by the GPhC is a landmark in the development of the pharmacy profession which will markedly change the future of the pharmacy practice and, most importantly, the care of patients.


“Pharmacists becoming independent prescribers at the point of registration is overdue and this alone will demand significant change across the entirety of pharmacist initial education and training, including much more ‘hands-on’ clinical training.


“There will be many challenges as we move through the next year or two, but I’m confident we can all work together to build a consensus on how to implement these changes for the benefit of patients.


“We’re also committed to ensuring the whole profession, including existing pharmacists, students and trainees, has opportunities to move forwards together, through ongoing funded training and recognition of existing skills and experience, to deliver even better careers for all.”


Gail Fleming, Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) Director for Education and Professional Development, said:


“We warmly welcome the new IET standards and the ambition for pharmacists in future to qualify as independent prescribers. This is a significant step forward for our profession which will enable pharmacists to better fulfil their roles as medicines experts. We’re delighted about the creation of common learning outcome domains across the GPhC standards and RPS post-registration curricula which will create a clear continuum of professional learning and development throughout a pharmacist’s career. We’re also pleased to see that an equality impact assessment has been carried out and look forward to that being published.


“Implementing the standards will require investment and we hope that additional funding will be made available to ensure the necessary additional experiential learning is provided.


“We look forward to working with the GPhC and other key stakeholders on the IET Advisory Group to ensure there is a robust transition plan so students and trainees can see how this will affect them over the next few years.”



Have you got a view on these changes? For example, do you think pharmacists should be permitted to become independent prescribers upon registration? 




ECG Training and Pharmadoctor launch a new wellness clinic


Leading pharmacy clinical skills training provider, ECG Training, and pharmacy clinical service package provider, Pharmadoctor, have announced the launch of a new wellness clinic, Makewell.


Makewell’s experienced team of nurses and pharmacists will provide patients with access to over 150 POM treatments across more than 60 clinical services; including, but not limited to aesthetics, allergy test & treat, COVID-19 testing, men’s & women’s health, sexual health, skincare and vaccinations.


In addition to serving as a stand-alone wellness clinic, Makewell has also been set up to provide pharmacists with a safe and practical learning environment where they can shadow the Makewell team to gain hands-on experience delivering a wide range of clinical services.


Commenting on the new clinic, ECG and Makewell CEO Jane Lambert commented:


“For pharmacists considering expanding the range of clinical services they provide, Makewell gives them a unique opportunity to gain the practical skills, confidence and experience they need to run successful services in their own pharmacy.” Jane enthusiastically goes on to say “Makewell’s clinical team is made up of ECG’s experienced pharmacist and nurse trainers who already train over 14,000 pharmacists each year in a classroom environment. Makewell enables our team to take pharmacist training to an enhanced level within a real clinic setting.”


Makewell is supported by Pharmadoctor’s full range of clinical packages, including their award-winning consultation eTools which have enabled Makewell to scale-up the number of services offered to patients in record time. In addition to clinical support, Pharmadoctor is providing Makewell with brand development and marketing support to help them promote their services to patients.


Graham Thoms, Pharmadoctor CEO, added:


“Our plan is to share our experience of successfully marketing the Makewell services with the pharmacies Pharmadoctor supports. We want to walk-the-walk when showing pharmacists best practice.”


Makewell will open up learning opportunities to pharmacies over the coming weeks and months. In the meantime, you can find more information by visiting the Makewell website here.


GPhC announce new training requirements for pharmacy support staff


The Council of the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) has agreed on new education and training requirements and learning outcomes for all pharmacy support roles.


The Council decided to introduce the new requirements after considering the feedback received from consultation and engagement with the pharmacy sector, pharmacy support staff, pharmacy professionals, members of the public and education and training providers.


In response to the feedback received, the Council agreed that the GPhC should continue to set requirements for the education and training of pharmacy support staff and to accredit courses.  The requirements will also now cover all support staff who have roles in:


  • Dispensing and supply of medicines and medical devices.
  • Advising on the use of medicines and medical devices.
  • Assisting in the provision of pharmacy services.


The previous requirements only covered medicines counter assistants and dispensing assistants.


The requirements, including the learning outcomes, have also been updated to make sure that they reflect developments in pharmacy practice and the workforce since they were first introduced in 2005. This includes core skills that all pharmacy support staff need to achieve, including communication skills for patient-centred care.


Alongside the requirements, a set of updated criteria for use in the accreditation of courses has also been developed.


At the meeting, the Council agreed on some amendments to the requirements which will now be made before the final requirements are published.


In 2020, the GPhC will set and communicate the date from which any new courses will need to meet the revised criteria for accreditation.


Duncan Rudkin, Chief Executive of the GPhC said:


“Pharmacy support staff play a very important role in providing pharmacy services to patients and the public. All members of the pharmacy team must have the education and training they need to undertake their important roles safely and effectively.


“I want to thank everyone who took part in our consultations and engagement on our proposals. We have made significant changes to our original proposals based on their feedback and look forward to implementing our new approach.”



Eight reasons I’m glad pharmacy apprenticeships have come and gone

Charles Odiase


Apprenticeships come into existence driven by certain factors, I will comment using the below headings;


Demand vs supply


Presently the demand for pharmacists is way less than the supply, especially as we have a lot of schools of pharmacy. Therefore a new workforce or route to becoming a pharmacist will only be a negative, as this would further compound the issue increasing the risk of unemployment and/or very low wages and poor employment conditions as we have often seen in community pharmacies in particular.


Insufficient workforce via conventional routes


As previously mentioned we have more pharmacists in the labour market than we have jobs, so how would a non – conventional route make the profession better? It would create frustration and drive further poor wages which is simple economics; more supply to demand equals lesser financial value attributed.


Void in workforce/skill required


We already have apprenticeships like the buttercup apprenticeships for dispensary workforce, we have pharm techs so where is the room for further apprenticeship in pharmacy; where was the need identified? This can only lead to further confusion and debates over roles and competences which could harm the already fragile public confidence in the pharmacy profession. Further conflicts within the profession; presently the profession is managing the conflict between Pharm Techs and Pharmacists, and this would only lead to further divide and frustration.


Government interference to take more control


As funding for pharmacy continues to be cut, giving the government room to boycott the profession only strengthens its position over the profession, leaving the profession helpless as there would no longer be a reason for employers and the government to feel obliged to meet the profession’s needs, disapproval and/or demand, as the conventional professionals become less relevant and the apprentices are loyal to their sponsors who are their employers, to the demise of the conventional pharmacist.




There is no precedence for this idea I am aware of from anywhere else in the world, however, we have precedence for those who want to study a medical related professional degree which is simply applying for a transfer or conversion. Surely setting such precedence can only signify the downgrade of the perception of the pharmacist profession not just to our medical related colleagues but to the public as a whole. This isn’t simply a threat on employment or wages but on our colleague and public perception of the pharmacist professional status. It will no longer be a course viewed on par with medicine and the likes, the ever-struggling profession would simply lose its standing position in the room where others have sitting down positions, we will be sent out to stand outdoors in the cold and fringes for good. This could damage the pharmacist brand and this isn’t an exaggeration, we see this already with community pharmacists fighting the perception of simply being box checkers who pharm tech can replace.


Level 7 courses and apprenticeships


The uniqueness of medical related level 7 courses is they make emphasis on the combination of technical and non – technical skills = functional skills training. This takes time and experience 12months doesn’t provide, it is why the nurses are moving towards a degree pathway, it’s why we have advanced practice postgrad courses etc. To suggest that 12months is sufficient regardless of the individual having a first degree is simply an insult to the profession, I can only assume those in support probably never did an MPharm degree and to their defence don’t realise the MPharm degree is not the diploma or BSc degree they completed. Apprenticeships are often used in the social sciences and mechanical courses/fields as these fields depend more on technical skills and less on non – technical skills at their baseline postgrad level. However, in the medical related field I am yet to see this become common place for very obvious reasons such as the need to develop much needed non – technical skills which could be the difference between causing harm or preventing of harm to service users. Apprenticeship is good for less fluid crafts and skills, as often what is learnt is reproducibility not versatility.




Regulation exists to provide uniformed standardisation which is much needed especially in medical related professions to assure public confidence in the profession. Apprenticeship regardless of guidelines put in place will further increase variation, as it offers more regulating powers to employers and other stakeholders whose drives aren’t fundamentally quality but labour acquisition cost. What we would see develop is similar regulatory flaws and loopholes observed during the time of the RPSGB leading to its enforced split. This will further compound the challenge faced by the GPhC which could lead to a further increase in GPhC fees.


Setting wages


How would wages be set as paying the post apprentice the same or more will surely create friction with conventional pharmacists whose training has cost a lot more and been more intense. It would affect the present poor wage structure more negatively.


I do hope for once pharmacists can rally together to wave off this threat to our profession, livelihood, public confidence and further professional divide.


Charles Odiase is an advanced clinical practitioner and specialist pharmacist in obesity and diabetes.


Clinical skills training included in £100,000 Welsh pharmacy investment


Welsh Health Minister Vaughan Gething has announced a £100,000 funding package for pharmacist training.


The minister emphasised the importance of ensuring that the pharmacy workforce has the right skills to deliver A Healthier Wales, Welsh Government’s long-term plan for health and social services. The new backing will fund specialist clinical skills training for 50 pharmacists across Wales, to be delivered by Health Education and Improvement Wales (HEIW). It will focus on managing minor ailments, traditionally not included in initial pharmacy training.


The Health Minister also welcomed the Welsh Pharmaceutical Committee’s report ‘Pharmacy: Delivering a Healthier Wales’. The report sets out how the unique skills of pharmacy professionals in Wales could be used to improve health wellbeing and prevention, enabling the people of Wales to get the most from their medicines. Thanking the Committee for their important work, Mr Gething said the Welsh Government would now consider the proposals over the summer and work with the profession in taking forward this ambitious plan.


The announcement coincided with the launch of the pharmacy phase of Welsh Government’s Train, Work, Live campaign aimed at promoting Wales as a top choice for pharmacists.


Health Minister Vaughan Gething said:


“I welcome the efforts of Welsh pharmacy professionals in working to ensure that pharmacies meet the changing healthcare needs of the people of Wales. There is increasing potential for pharmacists to be seen beyond their traditional role of dispensing medicines. This focussed training on minor ailments will directly benefit patients by freeing up GP time. Our commitment, backed with significant new funding this year for training and continuing professional development, will ensure a sustainable and appropriately-trained pharmacy workforce in Wales. It will also offer pharmacists more varied and professionally rewarding careers.”


Andrew Evans, Chief Pharmaceutical Officer for Wales, said:


“The Welsh Government and the profession have already achieved a great deal through working together. It is important that we continue to respond to the changing needs both of the people of Wales and our healthcare system. Seeing the right person, at the right time, to help them to stay fit and well, lies at the heart of that.”



Apprenticeships in pharmacy: be careful what you wish for

Aamer Safdar

The proposed apprenticeship for a pharmacist has come out of the blue for many of us and there have been lots of views on social media. Some of these views have been measured, factual and correct whilst others are scaremongering and ill-informed.


I have been asked to provide some thoughts in this short article.


It is important to note that the apprenticeship proposal is for England only. Apprenticeships are employer-led and a ‘trailblazer’ must have the support of ten employers for it to be considered. In my mind, there are three key stakeholders in this proposal which, in order of priority are:


  • Students.
  • Employers.
  • Training providers.


Students will be the most affected as they will be the ones who will be studying pharmacy in the form of an MPharm degree. This will not change as the only way to register as a pharmacist is to complete training which is accredited and regulated by the GPhC including passing the registration assessment. Students currently pay £9,000 per year to study for their degree and, in their pre-registration year are paid between £18,000 to £26,000 depending on the sector and location of where they work.


The proposed apprenticeship would mean that students will no longer be paying for their education and will instead be paid the minimum wage, or more should an employer wish to do this, for them to complete their training and be debt free on completion.


Employers will also benefit from this proposal but will also potentially lose out. The benefits for large organisations with a staff cost of £3 million and over is that the government top slices 0.5% of their overall staff budget and puts this into an apprenticeship levy. Employers can then use this levy to fund training and staff who are involved in the delivery of the training as long as it is part of an apprenticeship. Speaking from a hospital pharmacy perspective, the important issues for us to consider include the cost of the wages for apprenticeships as they will need to come from our internal budgets.


As all apprenticeships are paid a similar amount, there will be no differentiation between a level 2 apprenticeship wage and a level 7 one which needs greater consideration and thought.


Currently, Health Education England provides salary support for pre-registration pharmacists and the proposed realignment of salary support, which has been paused for a year, has led to many hospitals deciding to decrease the number of trainees they would be able to afford. If this apprenticeship has a workplace-based learning in practice requirement, as per the GPhC proposal in its Initial Education and Training (IET) for pharmacists, this could be up to 50% of the course total. This would mean that hospital employers will have to consider the capacity they can absorb into the workplace with an appropriate educational infrastructure being required, and coming at a cost, and it is potentially likely that there will be a reduction in the number of students they can absorb.


Employers will need to enter into partnerships with training providers which may result in local relationships being developed and less movement of students across the country.


Training providers will typically be current universities who are accredited by the GPhC to deliver an MPharm degree and any new entrant into the market will have to adhere to the GPhC IET standards and achieve accreditation. They will lose out on the current student fee of £9,000 per student if the apprenticeship comes in and, as the pharmacy schools council has already identified the need for additional funding to meet the requirements of the IET if the MPharm is to be increasingly clinically focused with more placements, the funding issue is an important one. Some of the funding could come from the employer levy but it will be down to the employers if they want to spend their levy in this way.


Hospitals have a range of different health and care professionals and there is no guarantee that they will consider pharmacists to be a priority given current the shortfall of nurses.


My experience of being on a trailblazer is that it takes a very long time to develop the standards and the endpoint assessments, all of which have to be approved within an apprenticeship framework. This proposal being put forward is the first stage of the process to identify if there is a need to develop this type of apprenticeship for pharmacists.


I personally have mixed views given the GPhC IET consultation has concluded and the news of this apprenticeship has broken after it has closed. I think this will be a lot of work and may create instability for students and employers in particular when we need to create an ever-increasing number of pharmacists going forward.


Aamer Safdar is a hospital pharmacist in a large London teaching hospital and a member of the GPhC Council. He is writing in a personal capacity. 


Read the proposal below


You can respond to the consultation on the proposal here.


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