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The Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) has been urging it’s members to respond to a proposal to reject an apprenticeship scheme towards pharmacy qualification in England. It says the scheme will have significant implications for both the pharmacy sector and the general public.

The PDA believes an “apprenticeship route for qualification as a pharmacist would be highly disruptive to the pharmacy profession.”

It opposes the scheme because it “would be led and controlled by employers, leading to a two-tier approach to qualifying as a pharmacist,” which is a model appropriate for technical occupations, such as pharmacy technicians.

Furthermore, the PDA is concerned that “the entire initial education and training of pharmacists would be influenced by large corporates.”

According to the association the move has been introduced by a group of employers which includes two major community pharmacy employers.

The PDA urges members wishing to reject the scheme to respond to a consultation which can be found here. The deadline is Sunday, April 14.

Pharmacy Business contacted the PDA to get a sense of the response they were receiving from their members. The PDA said: “We have received quite a few calls from members and there is quite a lot of concern being shown on social media.

“The vast majority of responses we have seen are very unhappy about the short nature of the consultation and the fact that apparently both GPhC and RPS have been involved in trailblazer meetings over the past couple of years, but have not mentioned the development.”

When reached out by Pharmacy Business on their ‘alleged role’, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) said: “We have not contributed to the pharmacy degree apprenticeship trailblazer up to now. We were notified by the trailblazer group that they were exploring this recently.”

The RPS clarified that although they were aware that a group of pharmacy employers had completed the first stage of submission to the Institute of Apprenticeships, the society “has not been involved with this submission.”

“The RPS will be feeding in our views at the appropriate time to make sure the professions voice is heard,” it added.

When asked who they thought would benefit the apprenticeship scheme, the PDA told Pharmacy Business that “the apparent secrecy surrounding this proposal development and subsequent consultation” was in itself “part of the problem” because there was nothing in the proposal to suggest what the benefits were.

Alima Batchelor, the Head of Policy at PDA said, “whilst there is potentially something in the argument that this may open up the pharmacist profession to individuals who do not feel financially able to go via the HEI MPharm route and who can receive a salary whilst training, we believe that this proposal would be ultimately hugely harmful to the profession as a whole.

“We do not think that the pharmacist qualification is an appropriate degree to be undertaken via the apprentice route and the whole set up which is based upon what employers require appears to be at odds with the current direction of travel towards a greater clinical and patient focussed role for pharmacists, Batchelor added.”

Responding to a question from Pharmacy Business, a spokesperson for the National Pharmacy Association said: “We believe that a pharmacist is central to the very identity of any pharmacy, and that the future of community pharmacy lies in providing clinical services alongside the safe supply of medicines. It follows that we support the highest standards of education and training for pharmacists.”