Pharmacists in Scotland - five-year integrated education programme: scoping report

Report on the integration of the existing four-year pharmacist degree and one-year training scheme into a single five-year programme.


The current initial training of pharmacists consists of a four-year Master of Pharmacy degree (MPharm) followed by a separate 52-week pre-registration training scheme. In Scotland there are two Schools of Pharmacy who offer an MPharm: the School of Pharmacy and Life Sciences at Robert Gordon University ( RGU) and Strathclyde Institute of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences ( SIPBS) at Strathclyde University. The MPharm is a 600 credit integrated Masters Programme, delivered over four years, covering SCQF levels 7-11. Students, when they graduate from the course, will have the knowledge, skills and behaviours to deliver the very best pharmaceutical care for patients, underpinned by sound scientific knowledge and principles.

  • The undergraduate MPharm Programme

The overall philosophy at both universities is student-focused and aims to develop a pharmacy student to be a life-long learner and reflective practitioner, with an emphasis, throughout the course, on interprofessional education and other professional experiences. This includes providing some interactions with experienced pharmacists, other healthcare professionals, carers and patients, although time in clinical practice is limited. In part, this is due to the current Scottish Funding Council ( SFC) funding model. The SFC provides funding for an MPharm undergraduate degree as a science/laboratory-based subject at price group 2 (£9,336 per FTE), unlike medicine and dentistry, who are funded for two years at price group 3 (£8,274 per FTE) and three years at price group 1 (£16,454 per FTE). Additional funding for experiential learning and placements for medical and dental undergraduate education comes through Additional Cost of Teaching ( ACT) funding. There is no equivalent for pharmacy meaning that opportunities for patient contact, placement and other forms of experiential learning are limited and rely on goodwill and personal relationships. On completing the MPharm graduates must undertake a pre-registration training year before registering to practise as a pharmacist. The MPharm degrees at RGU and SIPBS were accredited by the pharmacy regulator, the General Pharmaceutical Council ( GPhC), in 2013 and 2014 respectively for the maximum period of six years with no conditions or recommendations. This was against the GPhC education standards published in 2011, 'Future Pharmacists; Standards for the Initial Education and Training of Pharmacists', as part of its statutory responsibilities in approving qualifications for pharmacists across Great Britain.

  • The Pre-registration Training Scheme

The NHS Pre-registration Pharmacist Scheme ( PRPS) was established in Scotland in 2006 to address identified variations in the quality of training provision and assessment in the pre-registration pharmacist training year and to assist in meeting the needs of the Scottish Government strategy for pharmaceutical care. NHS Education for Scotland ( NES) was tasked to organise and manage the overall centralisation of the pre-registration education and training year for trainees in both hospital and community pharmacy settings across Scotland. The primary objective of the scheme was to standardise the training experience for pre-registration trainees in Scotland and to provide a quality management system ( QM). Currently, 170 PRPS trainees are employed in Scotland by their preferred NES approved Training Provider with their salary and associated costs being covered by a training grant paid to the employer by NES.

  • Future developments

The GPhC's Standards document also refers to the desire to increase the clinical context of the initial training of registered pharmacists and mentions the potential of a five-year integrated degree combining academic study and pre-registration training being a future possibility. This reflects some of the recent discussions and proposals in England around Modernising Pharmacy Careers ( MPC) towards combining the undergraduate degree and pre-registration year to lead to a five-year degree programme with coterminus graduation and registration. There are currently two Schools of Pharmacy in England offering fully integrated five-year degree courses, although they are mainly aimed at international students. That said, the GPhC has been consistent in recognising that the MPharm degree plus the pre-registration training (4+1) model will remain the pre-dominant model in the short term with an integrated degree being a future possibility. In addition, the GPhC Standards have been written in such a way that they support either model as the regulator has not been prescriptive about delivery structures, but instead concentrates on outcomes of the education and training processes.


Email: Elaine Muirhead

Phone: 0300 244 4000 – Central Enquiry Unit

The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
Regent Road

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