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NHS to train community pharmacists in mental health drive

The Government has announced plans to train and recruit 50 community-based mental health pharmacists in England as part of the new NHS People Plan.

The 2020-21 plan, which was published yesterday, sets out how the Government plans to support NHS staff and foster “transformation across the whole NHS”. It has been in development since 2019 but has been updated to reflect the challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic.

It describes plans to ensure more people are trained to provide services where there is critical need in the population, such as mental health and cancer, as well as plans to improve the physical and mental wellbeing of health workers.

“The NHS needs more people, working differently, in a compassionate and inclusive culture,” NHS England & Improvement’s 52-page outline states.  

NHSE&I said the “future workforce” will include “50 community-based specialist mental health pharmacists” as well as other mental health workers including psychological wellbeing practitioners targeting children and young people.

The plan also describes how the health service plans to ensure a “sustainable supply of prescribing pharmacists with enhanced clinical and consultation skills”. A key element of this will be the replacement of the current pre-registration year with a foundation year that will reportedly have a greater emphasis on clinical skills – and qualify all graduates as independent prescribers.

Commenting on the workforce plan, NPA vice chair Nick Kaye said the Government must invest more in integrating community pharmacists into the wider health service, for example through minor illness services, disease prevention and the management of long-term medical conditions.

“The chronic underfunding of the community pharmacy contract in England has to be addressed urgently,” Mr Kaye said, adding that “much more detail” is needed on the Government’s plans to introduce a new foundation training year for pharmacists.

PSNC chief executive Simon Dukes said he welcomed the emphasis on health workers’ wellbeing and that the PSNC was “particularly pleased to see the dedication and achievements of some community pharmacists highlighted in the People Plan document”.

He said that as a contracted sector community pharmacy teams are not covered by [workforce wellbeing mission statement] the NHS People Promise “and indeed some parts of it may not apply or are already covered by employment law and best practice”.

“That said, we believe contractors will be able to support some of the key themes within the promise.”

RPS England board chair Claire Anderson said: “Our members have been telling us about the importance of health and wellbeing support, sufficient rest breaks and protected time, and it’s welcome to see this reflected in the latest part of the People Plan.

“We’ll continue working with Health Education England on proposed changes to pre-registration and foundation training and it’s vital this is taken forwards in discussion with stakeholders. If we are to realise the ambition to create a sustainable supply of prescribing pharmacists, this must supported by appropriate funding.”




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