New standards for initial education and training of pharmacists approved

The standards will introduce major reforms that will benefit future pharmacists and patients

The GPhC Council has approved 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. 

The 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 requirements for organisations providing initial education and training.

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.

Key changes

The 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 of 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

The standards have been developed through extensive consultation and engagement with all key stakeholders over the last few years, including a major public consultation.

At the December Council meeting, Council members considered the changes that had been made to the standards in response to the feedback received from stakeholders, including from the Advisory Group. The Advisory Group includes representatives from key organisations and stakeholder groups and is chaired by GPhC Council members Rose Marie Parr and Arun Midha.  The role of the Advisory Group is to advise the GPhC and PSNI Councils on the standards and their implementation.

Implementing the standards

The GPhC will now work with the Advisory Group, and directly with the statutory education bodies, higher education institutions, the NHS in each country of Great Britain, and other employers, to develop a transition plan for implementing the standards in stages over the coming years.  

The GPhC Council has agreed that the changes, including independent prescribing from the point of registration, will be introduced at the earliest possible opportunity, taking account of the knowledge and skills student and trainee pharmacists, will be developing and making sure the necessary assurances, governance and supervision are in place to appropriately manage patient safety.

GPhC Chair Nigel Clarke said:

“These once-in-a-generation reforms will enable future pharmacists to take on new and extended clinical roles and meet the needs of the public and the NHS. In the future, pharmacists will be able to independently prescribe from when they join the register, with appropriate support. 

“Universities, employers and statutory education bodies will also be working together in new ways to give student pharmacists more clinical experience and provide enhanced support and quality assurance across all five years of education and training.  

“We would like to thank all of the key stakeholders involved for their help and support to get us to this point, and we will continue to work very closely with them to implement these significant changes.  We know implementing these reforms won’t be easy, but successfully delivering these reforms together will bring long-term benefits for the health service and patients and will help to meet the ambitions of governments and the NHS in each country across the UK. “

In a joint statement, the UK Chief Pharmaceutical Officers* said:

“This important and welcome decision by the GPhC is a landmark in the development of the pharmacy profession which will markedly change the future of the pharmacy practice and, most importantly, the care of patients.  

“Pharmacists becoming independent prescribers at the point of registration is overdue and this alone will demand significant change across the entirety of pharmacist initial education and training, including much more ‘hands on’ clinical training. 

“There will be many challenges as we move through the next year or two, but I’m confident we can all work together to build a consensus on how to implement these changes for the benefit of patients.  

“We’re also committed to ensuring the whole profession, including existing pharmacists, students and trainees, has opportunities to move forwards together, through ongoing funded training and recognition of existing skills and experience, to deliver even better careers for all.”

*The joint statement is from Dr Keith Ridge CBE, Chief Pharmaceutical Officer for England, Andrew Evans, Chief Pharmaceutical Officer for Wales, Alison Strath, Interim Chief Pharmaceutical Officer for Scotland and Cathy Harrison, Chief Pharmaceutical Officer for Northern Ireland.