The RPS in England has joined with the British Pharmaceutical Students' Association and Pharmacy Schools Council to call on the Government to allow pharmacy students to access a financial support scheme already available to other health professions.
Our joint letter to Health Minister Will Quince MP calls for pharmacy students to have equal access to the Learning Support Fund, including for travel and accommodation expenses for clinical placements.
With the NHS estimating that education and training places for pharmacists need to grow by 31–55% to meet the demand for pharmacy services, and with pharmacists playing a more clinical role in the health service, the letter highlights the need for pharmacy students to have equal access to the training and development support provided to other healthcare professions.
RPS England Chair Tase Oputu said:
“As pharmacists are playing a more clinical role in the health service, it seems more and more unjust that pharmacy students are excluded from the financial support they deserve.
“If we are to attract and retain the pharmacists we need to meet demand, this inequity at the very start of their career journey must be addressed.”
Read the letter below:
While the Government has announced that eligible students on nursing, midwifery, allied health professions, medical and dental courses will be able to claim 50% more for travel and accommodation expenses, we were disappointed that pharmacy students on clinical placements remain excluded from this support.
As the pharmacy degree has evolved to include a greater emphasis on clinical practice, pharmacy schools are delivering a growing number of clinical placements across a range of care settings and geographies. At present there is no direct support for pharmacy students travelling to these locations and this depends on the individual university. This is particularly acute for students in clinical placements in more rural areas. In the south west of England, for example, this could be up to two hundred miles from their nearest pharmacy school.
Placing students into rural or coastal locations can help manage the health inequalities that these communities experience and generate a pipeline of future pharmacists who may wish to return to work in those locations once qualified.
However, without appropriate funding in line with other health professionals, pharmacy students could be blocked from these wider learning experiences, instead concentrating placements closer to the university and further widening disparities across England’s regions. Given that extensive clinical placements are required to deliver the new learning outcomes, there is a real risk that this placement activity will be curtailed by financial constraints.
As you know, the current Learning Support Fund comprises a Training Grant, Specialist Subject Payment, Parental Support, Travel and Dual Accommodation Expenses, and an Exceptional Support Fund.
While we would ideally look for pharmacy students to be able to access all aspects of the Learning Support Fund as part of a future review, financial support for travel and accommodation for pharmacy students on clinical placements would be a positive first step.
The NHS Long-Term Workforce Plan highlighted the inequity caused by the inconsistent way in which funding is paid to students and has proposed “to introduce a single, consistent policy for funding excess travel and accommodation costs incurred by students undertaking placements”.
With the NHS estimating that education and training places for pharmacists need to grow by 31–55% to meet the demand for pharmacy services, pharmacy students must be included in this support.
Pharmacists are a key part of the future healthcare workforce, supporting patient safety, enhancing access to care, and helping deliver the best value from the £17 billion spent on medicines each year in England. From 2026, all new pharmacists will qualify as independent prescribers which with the right support could see a step-change in how the NHS delivers patient care. As we look for pharmacists to play a more clinical role in the health service, we would welcome your commitment to ensuring they are given comparable access to the training and development support provided to other healthcare professions.
President, British Pharmaceutical Students' Association
Prof Katie Maddock
Chair, Pharmacy Schools Council
English Pharmacy Board Chair, Royal Pharmaceutical Society
Prof Ruth Edwards
Pharmacy Schools Council representative, RPS Assembly