As you may be aware, the GPhC is currently consulting on the future of training for support staff who are not required to register (medicine counter and dispensing assistants). This consultation needs active, wide participation from all pharmacy service providers in the UK, to ensure that the outcome is right for pharmacy. The consultation suggests that the minimum training for your healthcare assistants (those who dispense or sell medicines) should deliver the knowledge and skills of the relevant units of a nationally recognised qualification at level 2.
So, in 12 months’ time, the GPhC will cease to accredit courses for unregistered pharmacy staff. Our alternatives to GPhC accredited courses will be those certified by other awarding bodies (Person (Edexcel) / City & Guilds), such as the level 2 intermediate apprenticeship, or the NVQ2 or BTEC (the exact structure of the course will depend on the outcome of the Trailblazer – subscribe to this blog for updates). The advantages of utilising the apprenticeship programme in this event are:
- it would have rigorous quality control
- programmes would mostly be a minimum of 12 months and the qualified member of staff would have the knowledge, skills and behaviours that the public have a right to expect
- if you are a levy payer (salary bill over £3M / annum), the apprenticeship programme will be funded by the contributions you currently make into your digital account (the staff member does not need to be an apprentice)
- if you are a non-levy paying employer in England, you would expect to pay a nominal contribution, with the majority of the programme being funded by the government
- the programme will up-skill the pharmacy workforce and should not increase salary expectations
- skills in English and Maths would be developed by your training provider.
But, when programmes are funded, there are rules! Click here for more information. If these rules aren't for you, then you can expect the programme to incur considerable costs.
I can only speak for Buttercups as a large training provider, authorised by the government on the Register of Apprenticeship Training Providers to deliver the apprenticeship funded programme mentioned above. It's a shame commercially if we can't continue to provide our relatively simple and short GPhC accredited programmes. They work for employers who have staff who work part-time and high turnover rates. I can't pretend that they deliver the whole package for the employer but they serve a useful purpose in many cases.
Even so, if employers need these shorter programmes they also need some assurance that what they are buying is fit for purpose. It's not reasonable to expect each of them to be able to review the whole programme and its processes, themselves, nor indeed an inspector at a visit. Training providers need an independent, respected body to give them the stamp of approval that employers can trust. It's time for the RPS to take back this role, or the GPhC to be prevailed upon to keep it. It's imperative that we all submit our views, to ensure that we can maintain the high standards of training for support staff, and the continued safety of our patients.