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:

Update on the reforms to initial education and training for pharmacists

New standards for the initial education and training of pharmacists

MPharm degree

Foundation training year

Changes to the 2021/22 foundation training year 

Independent prescribing

Registration assessment  


Update on the reforms to initial education and training for pharmacists

We have published new standards for the initial education and training of pharmacists, introducing important changes to ensure pharmacists are equipped for their future roles. 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, including by prescribing medicines.  

In the video below, Laura Fraser, our Director for Scotland, provides an update for current pharmacy students on the reforms to the initial education and training of pharmacists and what these will mean for you. 


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?

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

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 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 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.   

MPharm degree

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

  • We will start reaccrediting MPharm degrees to the new standards over a period of 3 academic years starting in 2021/22 to allow a degree of flexibility to higher-education institutions. This means that the process for reaccreditation to the revised standards will begin from 1 October 2021, with higher-education institutions receiving a reaccreditation event in a staggered arrangement between the 2021/22 and 2023/24 academic years.
  • Higher education institutions will be asked to transfer all new students who start on an MPharm degree in 2021-22 or later to the new standards. This will mean that all students graduating from an accredited 4-year MPharm degree in summer 2025 will have achieved the new year 4 learning outcomes, and be ready to enter the fully implemented foundation training year in 2025/26.

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 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. 
  • 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.
  • Once the foundation training year will be fully implemented, 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.

When and how will the foundation training year be implemented?

  • The foundation training year will be gradually developed from 2021/22 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 2021 standards for the initial education and training of pharmacists will be fully implemented by 2025/26, once students who have graduated from MPharm degrees fully based on the GPhC’s 2021 education and training standards enter their foundation training year.

Changes to 2021/22 foundation year training

What are the changes for the 2021/22 foundation training year

  • Recognising the importance of developing pharmacists as clinicians, stakeholders have agreed that earlier transitional iterations of the foundation training year will be introduced from 2021/22. We have developed a set of interim learning outcomes for the 2021/22 foundation training year. [PDF 225 KB]
  • The interim learning outcomes will apply to the training of all foundation trainees starting from July 2021 in all settings and will replace the pre-registration performance standards. 
  • All training delivered for 2021/22 should be based on the interim learning outcomes. Training providers will need to ensure that regular progress reviews monitor the trainee’s progression against the learning outcomes. This means that, from 2021/22, training providers should map their training plans to the interim learning outcomes. 
  • We published a mapping of the interim learning outcomes to the pre-registration performance standards [PDF 438 KB] to enable those involved with the upcoming foundation training year and to support training providers to align their training plans with the interim learning outcomes. Please note that this is only one example, provided by NHS Education for Scotland and reviewed by the GPhC, and should be used as intended, as a guide. We would expect to see several variations and different interpretations depending on the individual trainee pharmacist objective’s, the context in which they are operating including the sector or setting and the influence of the training provider and designated supervisor too.

What are the interim learning outcomes for the 2021/22 foundation training year?

  • A key distinction between the GPhC’s 2011 education and training standards and the 2021 standards replacing them, is the inclusion of pharmacist independent prescribing. 
  • We recognise that independent prescribing cannot be introduced immediately and so have developed an interim version of the learning outcomes [PDF 225 KB] which will not require 2021/22 trainees to train as independent prescribers during their foundation training year. The interim learning outcomes describe the knowledge, skills and attributes a trainee must demonstrate by the end of their foundation training year.
  • We expect to include the requirement for independent prescribing in later iterations of transitional learning outcomes and will keep providers updated on when this will happen in each country of Great Britain.
  • During initial iterations, trainee pharmacists will develop better clinical reasoning and decision-making skills demonstrating their readiness to progress as effective prescribers (once they meet our standards for education and training of pharmacist independent prescribers).

What changes need to be made to training plans to deliver the interim learning outcomes in 2021/22?

  • Given the timing, we recognise that it is not feasible for training providers to re-submit training plans that have already been submitted and/or approved. As in previous years, training providers should review and update their training plan in advance of their trainee starting to ensure that it remains contemporary, reflects any changes in practice and meets the individual trainees’ needs. As part of this process training providers should map the performance standards to the interim learning outcomes. Training providers do not need to share the updated plan with us – we will not review plans that have already been previously approved unless they are part of a new training arrangement or part of an application where the current approval expires in 2021.
  • We would encourage any training providers who have not submitted their training plans yet to use the interim learning outcomes if possible in their plans, but this is not necessary if training providers have already drafted their plan. We will approve training plans using the performance standards and training providers can map them to the learning outcomes later on as part of their preparation for the trainee starting.
  • If a training site was pre-approved until 2023 or 2024 this will be re-aligned to the 30 November 2022 date to ensure training providers receive further guidance and information sent regarding training plans and the foundation training year going forward.
  • From the 2022/23 foundation training year, all training plans submitted to the GPhC for approval must use the learning outcomes and not the performance standards. The date for submissions will be 1 March 2022 and training providers will receive an expiry date of 30 November 2023 to cover the next training period. The application process will remain the same and the same format will apply, see current criteria for more information.

How will training sites be approved for 2021/22 if it is not already approved?

  • The process for approval remains the same as in previous years except that we will only approve training plans for a duration of one year, which will cover a trainee’s period of training rather than the previous 3-year approval.
  • The closing date is 1 April 2021 to submit application forms and training plans to guarantee applications will be processed in time for a trainee to start from 12 July 2021. All plans approved going forward will be approved until 30 November 2022. In Scotland approval through NES will occur as normal.

How will training sites be approved where there has been a variation to training that cuts across more than one training year?

  • If a trainee is a part-time trainee or requires an extension to the 52 weeks for any other reason then please apply for re-approval via a new training plan and application form as well as a Change of Training Details form with the new end date of the training for the trainee.

Will the progress reports and assessment summary currently used for pre-registration change for the foundation training year in 2021/22?

  • No, we are expecting training providers to use the same assessment format currently captured in the pre-registration manual. The progress reviews should however consider progression against the interim learning outcomes rather than the performance standards. We will contact training providers in advance if and when these arrangements change for future years.
  • In England, Health Education England (HEE) will also provide an assessment strategy and associated documentation that will support assessment against and sign-off of the interim learning outcomes to all foundation training sites in England. It is intended that the HEE assessment strategy feeds into the completion of the GPhC sign-off forms in the pre-registration manual.

How should training providers continue to assess a trainee who has already started completing their assessment summary using the performance standards?

  • Training providers should start a new assessment summary that lists the learning outcomes and use the mapping tool to decide which of the learning outcomes have been fully met to the expectations of a day one registered pharmacist.

What guidance will the GPhC provide to training providers?

  • We published a mapping of the interim learning outcomes to the pre-registration performance standards [PDF 438 KB] to enable those involved with the upcoming foundation training year and to support training providers to align their training plans with the interim learning outcomes. Please note that this is only one example, provided by NHS Education for Scotland and reviewed by the GPhC, and should be used as intended, as a guide. We would expect to see several variations and different interpretations depending on the individual trainee pharmacist objective’s, the context in which they are operating including the sector or setting and the influence of the training provider and designated supervisor too.

How do trainees apply for the foundation training year in 2021/22?

Will trainees have to pay any additional fees during their foundation training year?

  • No, trainees will not have to pay additional tuition fees for their foundation training year. They will, however, still be required to pay the same fees that currently apply, such as the application fee when they join the scheme via mygphc.

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.
  • After the foundation training year is fully implemented, 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. 
  • Independent prescribing cannot be introduced immediately, and we have developed an interim version of the learning outcomes [PDF 225 KB] which will not require 2021/22 trainees to train as independent prescribers during their foundation training year. During initial iterations of transitional learning outcomes, trainee pharmacists will develop better clinical reasoning and decision-making skills demonstrating their readiness to progress as effective prescribers (once they meet our standards for education and training of pharmacist independent prescribers).
  • We expect to include the requirement for independent prescribing in later iterations of transitional learning outcomes and will keep providers updated on when this will happen in each country of Great Britain. We are working 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 higher-education institutions 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 higher-education institutions/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.