Public pharmacists in England will receive funded clinical skills training, including history taking and identification for a range of serious conditions, as part of a £2 million program expected to start in December 2022.
Health Education England (HEE) says it is looking for providers to provide training to up to 10,000 pharmacists, using a mix of online and in-person training.
According to HEE, the training program aims to “enable the transformation of pharmacy staff” to deliver clinical services and is part of a three-year program of education and training for professional pharmacists after registration, agreed in August 2021.
The program will run until March 2024, where community pharmacists wishing to participate must first pass an online history module before taking specialized modules in dermatology, cardiology, ear, nose and throat, and pediatric care. They can follow one specialist module each financial year and the scheme is open to locum and part-time pharmacists (see box).
Louise Baglole, director of professional services and development at the National Pharmacy Association, welcomed the initiative: “This is a welcome extension of clinical skills training for community pharmacists and will support the safe and effective delivery of NHS services. As a major provider of learning and development, we know there is a direct line from investment in skills to improved patient care.”
However, Leyla Hannbeck, chief executive of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies, made the point that while training is welcome, it does not address the staff shortages and lack of funding facing community pharmacy.
“We are facing staffing issues like everywhere in the NHS. Unless we can meet those challenges in terms of getting enough funding to invest in staff, it’s going to be difficult to manage the time and training,” she said.
“We want [community pharmacists] to be trained and ensure that the work becomes more clinical and service-oriented. But if no one helps us, it will just be words, words, words.”
She said they were looking for the kind of funding that GPs could get to hire pharmacists in surgeries so that funding is “a level playing field”.
Since 2019, the Center for Pharmacy Postgraduate Education and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society have been providing funded pharmacy integration program training to support community pharmacist consultation. This new schedule seems to build on this training with more specialized modules.
Matt Aiello, leader of national programs (education reform) at Health Education England, said the clinical training program aims to provide a “flexible portfolio of training and development options for pharmacists”.
“Through this training path and our pharmacy integration program in general, HEE aims to ensure that all training and development is commensurate and relevant to the identified service and public need,” he added.
“The provision of clinical skills training recognizes that patients and other health professionals are increasingly dependent on the clinical knowledge and skills of the pharmacy profession. The expansion of clinical skills training for community pharmacists will enable the transformation of the pharmacy workforce to support pharmacists in delivering a wider range of clinical services as part of cross-sector, multi-professional teams, working to deliver collaborative, integrated patient care pathways.
“The tender for training providers is now live, with the aim of making training modules accessible from December 2022.”
Box: How does the training work?
An initial module in history-taking and identification of serious conditions will only be available as an online, self-directed program.
Pharmacists who already have these skills, such as independent prescribers, can skip the training and do an assessment right away.
Pharmacists must pass the assessment before taking any of the specialist modules. This requires pharmacists to demonstrate that they can rule out serious illnesses using history taking and clinical assessment skills, and make appropriate further clinical referrals, with signage to appropriate services and safety nets or follow-up for patients who do not require a referral.
After passing the first online module, pharmacists can follow the specialist modules. These are given in a combination of face-to-face or online sessions:
- The dermatology module includes wound care, identification and treatment of rashes, common skin conditions, identification of severe rashes, moles and suspected skin cancer;
- The cardiology module includes history and assessments to identify common cardiovascular conditions, including blood pressure, heart rate, and pulse oximeter assessments. The module also covers how to deal with acute chest pain and the common side effects of commonly prescribed cardiovascular drugs;
- The Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) module teaches pharmacists about common ENT disorders; how to recognize potentially serious ENT disorders; examination of head, neck, throat and nose; otoscope inspection of ears; self-care treatments for common ENT conditions; and antimicrobial resistance;
- The pediatric module teaches pharmacists how to recognize and treat common acute symptoms in children – such as fever, cough, diarrhea and vomiting – and how to recognize signs of serious illness in infants and children. It includes care for common chronic conditions and self-care advice for caring for a sick child.
All modules conclude with an assessment and pharmacists receive a certificate of completion if they pass.
- This article was updated on August 4, 2022 with additional commentary from Health Education England