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Education and training

Pharmacy apprenticeships paused again to address 'misconceptions'

The “trailblazer” group behind proposals for pharmacy degree apprenticeships has paused development to engage with sector and address what it calls “misconceptions” over what the apprenticeships might mean.

Apprentice pharmacist


Funding is one of several concerns that have been expressed over proposals for pharmacy degree apprenticeships

Development of a proposed pharmacy degree apprenticeship has been paused for a second time to allow “misconceptions” to be addressed, according to a statement issued on behalf of the trailblazer group behind the proposals.

The group, which is made up of pharmacy employers, including Boots, LloydsPharmacy, Rowlands and Well, held a meeting in December 2019 to discuss progress on a second set of proposals for a pharmacy degree apprenticeship, after the initial process was halted in May 2019.

In a statement issued after the meeting, Skills for Health, which oversees development of the healthcare workforce, said: “The pharmacist apprenticeship development group decided that development on the proposal and standard should be paused whilst further engagement is undertaken with the sector to help address some of the misconceptions about degree apprenticeships and their relationship to regulated occupations.”

The statement also included a quote from the two chairs of the trailblazer group, Claire Flavell, strategic lead for the Lincolnshire Talent Academy at United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust, and Vanessa Kingsbury, training co-ordinator at Blackwell Medical Services, which said: “Having discussed with the development group, we feel that the group’s focus should be on awareness raising with the pharmacy sector in order to dispel further misconceptions about degree apprenticeships. We will be contacting those professional bodies that have taken an avid interest to invite them to further engage with us.

Pharmacy apprenticeships were first proposed as part of a 10-day consultation, which was launched on 10 April 2019. Following several criticisms, the plans were halted after arms-length government organisation, the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education, said the trailblazer group should be expanded to include representatives from the wider pharmacy industry.

In October 2019, a revamped version of the proposals were announced, with the group saying that it would take into account “issues and concerns” raised and agreeing that “more transparency in the process is needed and further engagement through a longer consultation period is required”. The Royal Pharmaceutical Society, the General Pharmaceutical Council, Health Education England and the National Pharmacy Association were providing “input and advice” on the process.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2020.20207516

Readers' comments (5)

  • I’m a little disappointment this has come back on the cards again. As I feel any apprenticeship in a role of a pharmacist is disgracing the profession. According to the article above it seems to be pushed by community cooperates who no doubt have their own objectives and not have the profession at its core objective. Do other healthcares like doctors or dentists do apprenticeships? Then why degrade our profession?

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  • When I first started in 1951 I started a 2 year apprentice ship. I and many others learn't about pharmacy and more importantly learn't about life . About working with experienced staff who could teach you a lot. Dealing with customers and learning about life. We also had distance learning as we went on. I later went on to do my A levels and eventually on to a 2 year RPS course at Bradford Technical College . University courses were very few. They concentrated more on academic courses preparing students for working in factories.or research.

    An average university had 35 places available in a year. Bradford had nearer 60 and we worked a 5 and half day week.

    A lot of us worked every weekend in local pharmacies and in local pharmacies nearer home during the breaks.

    All this time we were learning about patients. I met drug addicts. All sorts of patients. All sorts of customers asking for help. We had a patient who was nearly having a baby. Luckily the hospital was not too far away and got their in time.

    In the dispensary you met dispensers who had been there for many years and imparted their knowledge to you. You learn't to look after your patients and be sympathetic to their problems. So that when you passed your finals you could face the job.Look after staff and patients

    I do not know whether this system would work but I think the system where students spend a mixture of learning time in a uni and the learning in shops.hospitals or other areas.

    Dennis Maitland

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  • I'm disappointed and saddened that this has been opened up again. I agree with my peer below. Why is our profession being degraded. I think there needs to be more integration of learning within the university courses to give you a better understanding of the sectors, this shouldn't be an apprenticeship.

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  • Times change, why spend 40k on an out of date MPharm degree?

    Mine was rubbish and I went to a to 3 university.

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  • Changing pharmacy from a 4 year masters degree to an apprenticeship will really cheapen the degree. How can we fight misconceptions about the degree when ideas like this are put on the table? Pharmacy is such an intense course and students have had to work so hard to become qualified and now you’re telling me all that has gone to waste? I think focus should be placed on improving the profession, giving pharmacists more to do clinically and promoting pharmacy further. An apprenticeship option is really just absurd!!

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