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Home  »   Latest NewsPolicy   »   PDA facilitated large-scale response to unexpected pharmacist apprenticeship proposal, now we need to have questions answered

PDA facilitated large-scale response to unexpected pharmacist apprenticeship proposal, now we need to have questions answered

The PDA believes that the pharmacist apprenticeship proposal appears to be an ill-conceived proposal with motives which have little or nothing to do with the advancement of the profession or improved patient safety.

Wed 17th April 2019 The PDA

The PDA was shocked to learn last weekend that a proposal had been put forward for a pharmacist apprenticeship in England with a 10-day consultation period (just seven working days). The PDA sees this as an ill-conceived proposal with motives which have little or nothing to do with the advancement of the profession or improved patient safety.

On being alerted to this proposal, we created a document outlining our initial concerns and shared this with our members. We encouraged our members to respond to the consultation before the deadline of Sunday 14th April and provided a copy of our response on our website for information.

We would like to say a huge “Thank-you” to pharmacists for reading and reacting to our communication on this subject.  More than 6,000 people responded to the consultation, and the subsequent debate that this has generated shows the power we have if we act together as a united profession. There is strength in numbers.


Lack of transparency

It is still not clear who all the organisations behind the proposal are. Despite a very public debate happening after we circulated our concerns, we note that none of these organisations took the opportunity to identify themselves and respond to pharmacists’ concerns or provide clarification while the consultation period was still open.

Several organisations, including the RPS, have now publicly confirmed that they were not party to the development of this proposal and were not consulted about the proposal.  Others are now publicly stating their opposition to the proposal.

We believe each of the organisations in the trailblazer group should identify themselves and answer the questions being asked by the profession. This includes an explanation as to why they published a proposal that claimed pharmacists “are not required to diagnose and manage medical care” and which seems to have falsely claimed that the professional body had been consulted* about the proposal.

*The Trailblazer Group proposal which was issued for consultation claimed that: “The proposal has been developed through consultation with a range of employers, the professional body, regulator and Higher Education Institutes. The proposal has also been shared with the employers on the group for comments prior to submission.

However, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society released a statement on their website which contained the following: “We have not contributed to the pharmacy degree apprenticeship trailblazer up to now………………The RPS has not been involved with this submission.


Questions need answers

We are asking those responsible for this proposal to answer the following questions:

1. Who are the members of the Trailblazer Group and who else has been involved in developing the proposal?

2. What professional body, regulatory body and Higher Education Institutes did the Trailblazer group consult with?

In addition to the RPS statement above, the General Pharmaceutical Council has said: We have not contributed to drafting these proposals. We have attended two meetings to explain regulatory requirements in our role as the pharmacy regulator,

The Pharmacy Schools Council confirmed that a representative from a large multiple had attended their meeting on 1st April 2019, just three days before the consultation period.  We understand they alluded to the proposal as part of a general update but did not highlight the consultation to the Schools Council.

3. Were any pharmacist(s) within the Trailblazer group involved in approving the following description?

“Pharmacists are experts in medicines and therapeutical management and ongoing care, they are not required to diagnose and manage medical care, they will also provide advice to patients on medicines management”

4. When and how did the Trailblazer group consult with the following?

  • General Pharmaceutical Council,
  • Higher Education Institutes,
  • NHS Acute trusts.
  • Other representatives of our profession

5. How long has this proposal been in development?

6. What was the involvement of Health Education England?

The PDA would like to know exactly how and when Health Education England was involved in these discussions. Pharmacists have speculated that this may shed some light on HEE’s decision to cut salary support for NHS hospital pre-registration placements by 25%, which was also implemented with little or no consultation with affected organisations. At the time HEE said that the money saved will be reinvested “to ensure improved impact” and that it would be collaborating with the profession and employers to ensure that “an effective national reinvestment plan can be implemented”. 

7. What is the nature of the ‘skills gaps’ identified by the employers in the Trailblazer group, which the proposal is reportedly intended to address?


We understand that the Trailblazer Group may have been working on this proposal for two years, yet the way in which this consultation came to light and lack of transparency surrounding the consultation appears almost designed to avoid scrutiny by the profession.

Proper consultation on such a proposal is essential because such a development could have intended and unintended consequences on the number, competency and level of transferable skills of new entrants to the profession.  There would also likely be an impact on Pharmacy Schools and the availability of pre-registration places for those coming through the existing 4 year MPharm course.

Yet we know, for example, that the Pharmacy Schools Council, which consists of all pharmacy schools, was not invited to contribute to the proposal and found out about the consultation too late to be able to submit an official response and the same will be true for many more individuals and some organisations.

The proposal seems to be completely at odds with the direction of travel for pharmacists who are being encouraged to qualify as independent prescribers and complete Advanced Clinical Practice courses to enable them to provide expert patient facing individual care. Pharmacists who were not supported to be able to provide these new extended roles would be at a significant employment disadvantage and would not be able to contribute as much as they could to NHS healthcare.

PDA were able to respond to the consultation and then, through alerting its members and providing them with the necessary information, we were able to generate an emergency debate before such a proposal could be progressed.  We ensured that our profession got a say.

Given the flaws identified we urge the Trailblazer Group to explain its actions and articulate its motivations.  We hope they will listen to the voice of the profession and withdraw their proposal.  In any event the PDA will continue to look at this subject and continue to work for progress of the profession in ways that improve practice for patients and for pharmacists.

Read the trailblazer group’s proposal and PDA’s initial response here

The Pharmacists' Defence Association is a company limited by guarantee. Registered in England; Company No 4746656.

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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