FAQ: reforms to the initial education and training of pharmacists

The new standards, recently approved by the GPhC Council will introduce major reforms that will benefit future pharmacists and patients. 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. 

Use the links below to navigate to the relevant section:

New standards for the initial education and training of pharmacists

Foundation training year

Independent prescribing

Registration assessment  


New standards for the initial education and training of pharmacists

Why are you introducing new standards for the initial education and training of pharmacists?

  • 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.

  • They have been developed to produce adaptable pharmacist professionals who will be confident and capable of operating in multi-professional teams across a variety of healthcare settings, to meet diverse and changing patient needs.

What do the standards cover?

  • These standards set out the knowledge, skills, understanding and professional behaviours a student/trainee pharmacist must demonstrate to pass their initial education and training and to join the professional register.  

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

Where can I find the new standards on your website?

  • We are currently preparing the final version of the standards for publication, including checking that the final version is written in plain English and preparing a Welsh translation

  • We will publish the final version of the new standards on our website in early 2021

What are the key changes in the revised standards?

These 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.

How do these standards take account of learnings from the COVID-19 pandemic?  

  • We reviewed the standards and learning outcomes to take account of learning from the pandemic and sought feedback from our Advisory Group on this issue.

  • We have made a number of changes to the standards in response, including increasing the focus within the learning outcomes on:

    • collaborative working with other professionals

    • remote engagement and consultation with patients

    • person-centred care, including greater emphasis on addressing health inequalities and understanding communities and cultures

How do the new standards reflect the move to digital learning and remote consultation?

  • There is a key focus within the standards on developing capable, confident pharmacy professionals who are dedicated to person-centred care, both in person and via remote consultations

  • We have included specific learning outcomes in relation to digital learning and remote consultation, including keeping abreast of new technologies and using data and digital technologies to improve clinical outcomes and patient safety, complying with information governance principles

Will you provide more details about what is expected for each learning outcome and how this is assessed?

  • Yes, we will develop an evidence framework with examples of how students and trainees can demonstrate the learning outcomes. We will seek views on this and publish it in 2021.

What practical experience will people get during their education and training?

  • To achieve the learning outcomes, curricula, teaching and learning strategies, programmes and training plans to deliver these learning outcomes will need to provide experiential learning and inter-professional learning; with students from other health and care professions, and provide experience in different pharmacy settings

  • As students advance through their MPharm degree they will be expected to demonstrate the learning outcomes to a greater depth, breadth and degree of complexity.

  • The foundation training year will enable student/trainee pharmacists to experience new situations and environments, providing opportunities to build upon their knowledge and skills and demonstrate these with patients in clinical settings.  

  • The standards also include a requirement for a period of learning in practice, during the foundation training year, of at least 90 hours of supervised practice, specifically related to prescribing to consolidate their learning and allow them to achieve independent prescribing annotation following the completion of a foundation training year, passing the registration assessment and registering with the GPhC. We recognise that different models of learning in practice might be implemented in the different countries of Great Britain.

When and how will the new standards be implemented in MPharm courses?

  • We will work with the Advisory Group to develop a transition plan for how and when the standards would be implemented. 

  • We will then provide an update to everyone who is affected by the changes, including current and future MPharm students and trainees, universities and employers

  • We will look for the changes, including to support the aim that pharmacists can independently prescribe from the point of registration, to be implemented at the earliest possible opportunity.

Will MPharm students who have already started their courses have to meet the new standards and learning outcomes, or will they only apply to students who start from October 2021?

  • We will work with the Advisory Group to develop a transition plan for how and when the standards would be implemented.

  • We will then work with the schools of pharmacy and strategic education bodies to share an update to explain what this means for different cohorts of MPharm students.

Why are admissions processes to the MPharm changing?

  • We have strengthened the admission requirements in the standards

  • Selection processes must be fair and give all applicants an opportunity to demonstrate their ability and suitability to be a trainee pharmacist.

  • Everyone involved must proactively seek to identify and reduce discrimination in selection and admission processes.

  • Selection processes must also give applicants the guidance they need to make an informed application. Selection criteria must be explicit.


Foundation training year

What is the foundation training year?

  • The period of 52 weeks in which a trainee pharmacist undertakes practical learning and training activities under supervision, which is currently known as the pre-registration training year, will be known as the foundation training year across all UK countries/employers from Summer 2021 onwards.

  • The foundation training year will be gradually developed from 2021 onwards; the changes to this year will not happen all at once, but will happen over several years, with improvements being made as quickly as possible.

  • The foundation training year will offer on the job, practical training in a clinical setting/s that enables trainees to build upon their underpinning pharmacy knowledge, understanding, skills and behaviours, and previous experience, and apply them to enhance their knowledge and skills in preparation for registration. 

  • Once the necessary changes are introduced, trainees will complete at least 90 hours of supervised practice, specifically related to prescribing, during their foundation year, to strengthen their competence and allow them to achieve their independent prescriber annotation upon registration.

How do I apply for the foundation training year in 2021?

  • MPharm students entering their fourth year of study and applying for training posts to begin in Summer 2021 must continue to apply through the current systems being used within the different UK countries/ employers. Please visit our website for useful links on finding a training post.

Will I still receive a salary during my foundation training year?

  • Yes, you can expect to still receive a salary during your foundation training year. The statutory national education bodies and employers will provide further details once available.

Will I have to pay any additional fees during my foundation training year?

  • MPharm students will not have to pay additional tuition fees for their foundation training year

How will the foundation training year will be different to pre-registration training?

  • The foundation training year will involve NHS Education Commissioners, employers and Higher Education Institutions working together in new ways, with a clear set of accountabilities, including systems of quality management and quality control, and with oversight of the outcomes from the GPhC and the PSNI. This means that trainees will receive enhanced support and supervision throughout the foundation training year.

When will you be able to provide further details about how the foundation training year will work in practice, including the structure, outcomes and content?

  • We are currently working closely with all key stakeholders on how the foundation training year will work in practice. The GPhC, and the education and training bodies in each country (HEE, NES and HEIW) will provide further details to future trainees, employers and supervisors about areas such as the structure and outcomes as soon as they are available.

Will OSPAP students also need to complete the foundation training year?

  • Yes, OSPAP students will also need to complete the foundation training year.


Independent prescribing

Why is it necessary for people to become independent prescribers at the point of registration? How will this be done safely?

  • There is already huge demand in health services across Great Britain for pharmacists to be able to prescribe for patients and use their expertise in medicines to its full potential. This is why we need to change the initial education and training of pharmacists, so they have the skills and abilities to prescribe from when they join the register, with appropriate support.

  • The skills, knowledge and attributes for independent prescribing (as set out in the standards for the education and training of independent prescribers) will be woven throughout the five years of education and training, so pharmacists can independently prescribe from the point of registration.

  • During the foundation training year trainees will complete at least 90 hours of supervised practice, specifically related to prescribing, to strengthen their competence and allow them to achieve their independent prescriber annotation upon registration. 

  • We will work closely with everyone with an interest in this area on the practical details of how this will be implemented and how to put in place the necessary assurances for patient safety.


Registration assessment

Will there remain a common registration assessment in 2022 and beyond?

  • Yes, that is still the intention. We keep the registration assessment under constant review.

How will the standards address the different pass rates in the registration assessment?

  • We have strengthened the admission requirements in the standards by requiring HEIs to assess the skills and attributes of prospective students (that is, their interest in person-centred care, ability to work with other people, professionalism, problem solving abilities and numeracy) as well as their academic qualifications in order to assess applicants’ values and professional suitability

  • Systems and policies must be in place to allow everyone involved to understand the diversity of the student/trainee’s circumstances and experiences and the implications that has for programme delivery and student/trainee support and development.  

  • We have strengthened the requirements in relation to equality, diversity and inclusion.

  • This includes requiring schools of pharmacy/organisations involved in the foundation training year to carry out a review of student/trainee performance annually broken down by protected characteristics, as defined in relevant equality and human rights legislation. Documented action must be taken to address differences where they are found.  

  • We have also strengthened the quality assurance, management and control of the foundation training year to ensure a consistent high-quality experience for all trainees.

  • This will involve the GPhC delegating responsibility and quality assurance the statutory education bodies (Health Education England, Health Education and Improvement Wales and NHS Education for Scotland). The statutory education bodies will design and manage the quality of placements during the foundation training year. Employers will provide the day-to-day quality control of placements.