Pharmacy bodies: Sustainable funding needed for 5-year degree plan

The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) proposed the five-year integrated programme for pharmacy students in a 12-week consultation that ended yesterday (April 3).

The Company Chemists’ Association (CCA), the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp) and the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) said the plans require a “carefully considered and sustainable funding model”.

In a joint response to the consultation released yesterday, they said it was “important to emphasise” that funding and remuneration models were not addressed and “still need to be discussed”.

“Clarity is needed” on funding from Health Education England, NHS Education for Scotland and Health Education and Improvement Wales, they added.

GPhC: Up to others to decide

The GPhC’s consultation document did not explain how placements would be funded in a five-year degree.

However, it told C+D last month (March 22) that “it is up to others including government departments, funding bodies, health education and training bodies, schools of pharmacy and employers to work collaboratively and consider what changes may be needed in relation to funding and delivery”.

The CCA, AIMp and NPA also said pharmacy schools should be “eligible for additional high-cost funding to cover at least one clinical year” in line with dentistry and medicine courses.

“MPharm degrees are clinical courses and should not be grouped alongside laboratory-based science courses when it comes to subject funding,” they added.

Nevertheless, the bodies recognised “the educational case for a curriculum [that] aims to allow better access to patients earlier in the programme through integration of work-based learning and assessment”.

Declining pharmacy degree applications

The CCA, NPA and AIMp also expressed concern about a decline in applications to study pharmacy in the last five years.

The number of people studying pharmacy at university has fallen 4.5% since 2013-14, from 14,599 to 13,940 in 2016-17, according to the GPhC.

“Motivations to study pharmacy must be further explored to understand why a previously steady growth in applications has slowed,” the pharmacy bodies said.

“Attracting the right calibre of students to schools of pharmacy is essential for a driven and aspirational future workforce,” they added.

RPS: A risk to the pharmacy workforce

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS)’s director of education Gail Fleming said in a statement that “if these proposals are implemented prior to additional funding being secured, the potential disruption could pose a risk to the future of the pharmacy workforce”.

The RPS welcomed the GPhC’s “ambition to see closer integration of academic study and learning in practice” but warned that this would “require considerable investment and infrastructure”, Ms Fleming said.

Read GPhC chair Nigel Clarke’s explanation of why students need a five-year pharmacy programme here.

Author: Lorraine Oliver

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