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Pharmacist training places to increase by 50pc to 5,000 by 2031-32


Pharmacist training places to increase by 50pc to 5,000 by 2031-32

Education and training places for pharmacists will need to grow by 31–55 per cent to meet the demand for pharmacy services, to reach 4,359–5,174 by 2032/33, according to estimates in the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan.

To meet this demand, the Plan sets out an ambition to increase training places for pharmacists by nearly 50 per cent to around 5,000 places by 2031/32.

To support this level of growth, training places will expand by 29 per cent to around 4,300 by 2028/29, starting with initial growth in 2026/27 when places will increase by 15 per cent.

Funding will come from an additional £2.4 billion the government has pledged to invest in the education and training of the NHS workforce over the next six years. This will support a 27 per cent expansion in training places across all professions by 2028/29.

Consideration is still being given to the potential of a pharmacist degree apprenticeship, the Plan says. It sets out ambitions to introduce medical degree apprenticeships, with pilots running in 2024/25, and provide 22 per cent of all training for clinical staff through apprenticeship routes by 2031/32, up from just 7 per cent currently.

The Plan also calls for continued growth of the pharmacy technician workforce to ensure expansion of this group to support growth and transformation across the pharmacy workforce. However, there are no specific commitments. There is potential to continue expanding training via the apprenticeship route for pharmacy technicians, the Plan says.

The Plan assumes an ambitious labour productivity assumption of 1.5–2 per cent. “This ambition requires a combination of delivering care closer to home while avoiding costly admissions, achieving operational excellence, and reducing administrative burden through better technology and infrastructure.”

The Plan says that “in future, hub and spoke models and automated dispensing will reduce the time pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and dispensers spend on direct medicines supply".

“Modelling estimates that hub and spoke dispensing will increase 2 per cent a year, which will release capacity across the community pharmacy workforce to support a greater focus on delivering clinical services. We also anticipate that with the right support and investment community pharmacies can make efficiency savings by switching to paperless systems.”

The Plan also recognises that community pharmacies are increasingly providing clinical services, such as vaccinations, blood pressure checks, and initiation of contraception. “The opportunity for this transformation will continue to accelerate, with all newly qualified pharmacists becoming independent prescribers from 2026, shortening the time it takes for a pharmacist to prescribe independently from approximately eight years to around five”

NHS England is currently providing training places to 3,000 pharmacists who have graduated but not completed an independent prescriber course to gain the required skills, the Plan notes, and through proportionate regulatory reform, pharmacy technicians will be able to supply medicines and services through Patient Group Directions.

The Plan calls for an increase the number of GP training places by 50 per cent to 6,000 by 2031/32. The number of GP specialty training places will increase to 5,000 a year by 2027/28, with the first 500 new places will be available from September 2025. Without action, the shortfall in qualified GPs is projected to be 15,000 FTEs by 2036/37.

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