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Pharmacist apprenticeship latest: Proposal fails first test

The PDA has been advised that the anonymous proposal to develop an apprenticeship for pharmacists has not passed its first test, but that does not mean that this is the end of the matter.

Wed 22nd May 2019 The PDA

The proposal to develop an apprenticeship for pharmacists in England, and how it has been managed, has caused significant concern across the sector. The PDA has acted, and continues to act, in the interests of the profession and is keeping members up to date with developments.

Proposals for apprenticeships in England are developed with the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IFATE) and in line with the Institute’s normal practices, the proposal for a pharmacist apprenticeship standard went forward for consideration by the Institute’s Route Panel. This is a Panel of employers with “relevant occupational experience” who make a recommendation to the Institute’s Board who then make a final decision. The Board decides if the proposal can proceed to the development stage. This process ensures all apprenticeship standards are of the highest quality and in line with employer demand.

At this point the Board has acknowledged that “pharmacists” meet their definition of a distinct occupation but recommended that: “the membership of the group developing the proposal should be expanded to include professionals from a wider range of pharmacy sectors such as military, prisons and higher education institutions“; and “further engagement should take place with sector stakeholders during the development of the proposal. The Board has therefore decided the proposal is not ready to go through to development at this time.”

Paul Day, Director of PDA said “If the employer group intends to try again to progress their plans, we believe they should first identify themselves and approach their proposal with the level of transparency which the profession deserves.  Simply adding more anonymous members to an existing anonymous group is not going to improve the credibility of the proposal, or the process. 

We appreciate that identifying the employers is not the institute’s normal practice, but since this proposal came to light we have also become aware that the institute has been criticised for being secretive by others and that their Chief Executive, Sir Gerry Berragan, has made public commitments that they will become more transparent.

The PDA also wants to make it clear that our desire to be consulted about this proposal and have the opportunity to make our concerns known should not be viewed in any way as an indication of support.  In the absence of transparency and the opportunity to discuss the matter with those who are behind the proposal we are yet to hear the arguments supporting the idea that a pharmacist apprenticeship is either necessary or desirable.

Following  on from the action we took to alert the profession about the proposal and the 6,000 responses to the proposal, it is clear that IFATE have recognised the strength of feeling and have acknowledged that far wider stakeholder involvement is required to debate this hugely significant potential change which will impact on the whole profession.

The PDA reiterate our request that the responses to the initial consultation, or a summary of them, must be made public as we’d expect from any public consultation even though we’ve similarly learned this is not the normal IFATE practice. We can see no valid reason to keep that information out of the public domain.

However, this is not the end of the matter and there are now other organisations involved in the process too. Skills for Health, is a not-for-profit organisation established in 2002 as the Sector Skills Council for Health for the UK health sector.  Their stated aims include  to “Improve quality, productivity and health outcomes” and “Raise standards in skills and training delivery”.  Skills for Health have now been commissioned by Health Education England to support the development of this apprenticeship including stakeholder engagement sessions.

The Health Education England (HEE) website says HEE “exists for one reason only: to support the delivery of excellent healthcare and health improvement to the patients and public of England by ensuring that the workforce of today and tomorrow has the right numbers, skills, values and behaviours, at the right time and in the right place.”

Paul Day added: “If Employers, or others, continue to seek to progress this idea, the PDA will continue to work with other stakeholders to discuss the proposals and keep our members advised of developments.”


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The Pharmacists' Defence Association is an appointed representative in respect of insurance mediation activities only of
The Pharmacy Insurance Agency Limited which is registered in England and Wales under company number 2591975
and is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (Register No 307063)

The PDA Union is recognised by the Certification Officer as an independent trade union.

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