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Education and training requirements for pharmacy support staff - Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

About the new requirements:

What is changing (and what is staying the same) in the GPhC’s revised requirements for support staff?

When will the changes come into force?

If I am enrolled on a course accredited under the current standards, will I need to re-start training when the new course is accredited?

Who needs to be trained and what do they need to do?

Why are you proposing to introduce further safeguards in relation to the exemption for students?

Are support staff who: were declared competent when the requirements were introduced in 2005, or have already completed training to meet our requirements - required to complete further training? 

There is no mention of Medicine Counter Assistant (MCA)/Dispensing Assistant (DA) roles in the requirements - Are you stopping MCA/DA courses?

How are the new learning outcomes and accreditation criteria different to what is currently in place?

Follow this link to read our proposals for the education and training requirements of pharmacy support staff.


What is changing (and what is staying the same) in the GPhC’s revised requirements for support staff?

Our policy is staying fundamentally the same.

We will continue to require that pharmacy support staff working in dispensing and supply of medicines and medical devices should be competent in their role to the equivalent level of an RQF L2/SVQ L5 qualification. This does not necessarily require support staff to complete a whole L2/5 qualification and we will continue to accredit equivalent courses which will also enable them to meet this requirement. 

We have decided to retain this policy following:

  • the 2017 consultation on safe and effective pharmacy teams 
  • feedback from further engagement activity carried out in 2018

In these engagement activities, our stakeholders told us that it was in the interests of patients and the public (as well as pharmacy staff and organisations) for us to continue to set requirements and accredit courses. 

At the same time, we want to bring the requirements underneath this policy up to date so that we:

  • make sure these courses cover all the things patients, the public and employers think are important and support safe and effective pharmacy services- for example, more emphasis on non-technical or ‘soft’ skills like communication
  • reflect the different roles performed by support staff and the range of settings in which they work. This includes future-proofing our requirements as new kinds of roles and settings emerge
  • accredit courses in line with modern principles of regulation and up to date legislation
  • consider whether the exemption that MPharm students and pre-registration trainees currently have from being required to complete training if they are employed in a support staff role is still safe or appropriate, or whether it should be amended or removed. 

When will the changes come into force?

The requirement to ensure support staff are trained is already in place and will continue to be in place with the revised policy, due to be published in Autumn 2019. New learning outcomes and accreditation criteria will be published as part of the revised requirements. 

We will expect course providers to move to new outcomes and accredit against the new criteria for the next cycle of accreditation of support staff courses, which is due in 2021/22.


If I am enrolled on a course accredited under the current standards, will I need to re-start training when the new course is accredited?

No.

No-one should have to restart or repeat training because of these requirements: staff who are already enrolled on a course that has been accredited against our previous standards will not be required to re-start training and are permitted to complete their existing course to meet our requirements.  


Who needs to be trained and what do they need to do?

Staff working in a registered pharmacy who have a role in the dispensing and supply of medicines or medical devices need to be trained. We have provided examples of the tasks that support staff should have training for in Appendix 1 of the requirements.  

Please note the examples provided are not intended to be exhaustive. 

Support staff can meet this requirement by completing and passing a GPhC approved training course (this can be recognised L2 qualification or GPhC accredited equivalent). 


Why are you proposing to introduce further safeguards in relation to the exemption for students?

The current policy contains an exemption, which allows students and pre-registration trainees to be employed in any support staff role at any point in their education and training. We considered whether all staff should be trained for the role they are in and concluded that the current exemption was too permissive, as it permitted students who may not have acquired the appropriate knowledge and skills to work in these roles without appropriate training. 

We also heard from stakeholders that ending this exemption completely would unduly restrict students’ ability to work and gain experience of pharmacy. Instead, we are proposing further safeguards around this exemption. These are that:

  • employers wishing to employ MPharm students should carry out a learning needs assessment of the student against the requirements of the role
  • they should then make arrangements to ensure that any further knowledge, skills or experience required for the role is provided, either through approved training or under local arrangements

Employers would be expected to keep records of any such arrangements to demonstrate our requirements have been met. 

We would encourage course providers to put in place suitable arrangements to recognise prior learning, to avoid any repetition of content for students completing approved courses. 


Are support staff who:

- were declared competent when the requirements were introduced in 2005, or

- have already completed training to meet our requirements

required to complete further training? 

No. 

If a member of support staff has already completed training to meet our requirements, they do not have to do so again 

Staff who are working in the areas of work in which the supervising pharmacist declared them competent when requirements were introduced in 2005 may continue in their role and are not required to complete further training. 

Support staff who completed training since 2005 have already met our requirements and we do not require them to undergo further training for their role. 

However, if their role or place of work has changed additional training may be required. We also expect pharmacy owners to make sure that the knowledge and skills of pharmacy staff they employ remain up to date (see our Guidance to ensure a safe and effective pharmacy team, 4.2.8)


There is no mention of Medicine Counter Assistant (MCA)/Dispensing Assistant (DA) roles in the requirements - Are you stopping MCA/DA courses? 

No.

Our revised requirements recognise there are now several different support staff roles for which training will be required. We have already accredited courses related to stock and delivery roles and courses for staff working in a ‘hub’ pharmacy. 

We will continue to accredit courses titled MCA or DA if this is what employers and or providers wish to do. There will also be flexibility to develop courses.


How are the new learning outcomes and accreditation criteria different to what is currently in place? 

Learning outcomes

  • Following the feedback received during consultation and engagement, we have developed a core set of generic skills that are important for anyone working in pharmacy in any role 

  • These were developed with reference to the National Occupation Standards (UK standards of performance that people are expected to achieve in their work), the apprenticeship framework and existing GPhC documents to reflect things patients and the public thought were important for anyone in a support staff role

  • Employers will be able to select the technical skills they need for the role and setting in question and map these to the NOS. This is similar, but more flexible, than the current system.

Accreditation criteria

We have addressed gaps in the existing accreditation criteria related to issues including:

  • equality, diversity and inclusion
  • having processes to raise concerns if they are identified

We have also revised the criteria so that:

  • they are consistent with comparable GPhC documents and approaches, especially the principles of ‘outcomes focussed’ regulation
  • they address omissions or weaknesses in the existing standards (for example, they strengthen criteria around courses to make sure that educational principles as well as pharmacy principles are reflected in the design of courses)

Both the outcomes and accreditation criteria were developed with reference to important GPhC and other documents and took account of feedback from a range of stakeholders including patients and the public, employers, training providers, representative bodies and support staff themselves.