A SCOTTISH Government plan to introduce a new five-year integrated degree for pharmacy students has hit the buffers after Scotland’s two university schools of pharmacy refused to commit to the scheme as a behind-the-scenes row was made very public.

Currently it takes a four-year degree plus a year’s training to qualify to be a pharmacist but the Scottish Government plans to create five-year integrated pharmacy degrees with more “on the job” training.

Their decision puts the two schools on a collision course with Scotland’s Chief Pharmacist, Rose Marie Parr, who has championed the change. Robert Gordon University and the University of Strathclyde yesterday stated: “The two schools of pharmacy in Scotland are committed to producing the highest quality graduates for the profession and have an exemplary record in this regard.

“Whilst we support the ambition to enhance the education of our undergraduates, we are unable at this point to commit fully to any form of integrated five-year programme, as indicated in the announcement by the Chief Pharmacist, until a number of substantive issues are resolved.

“We welcome further dialogue with the Chief Pharmacist and her team to address these issues. We remain committed to working with the Scottish Government to ensure a sustainable future for our graduates.”

NHS Education for Scotland announced in August last year that it was considering replacing the current four-year degree plus one year of training, which Parr said would help to manage student numbers to “meet workforce demand”.

In early May, the Scottish Government gave approval for Scottish universities to move to a five-year integrated pharmacy degree.

Announcing the change, Parr said at the time: “It gives me great pleasure to say that today, for the first time that Scotland is going to go for a five-year programme for education and training to try to evolve the four years plus one year of pre-registration training.

“We want people to have experiential learning, practice learning, we want people to experience consultation skills and clinical skills, so that when they come to patient care and they are patient-facing, they are actually equipped to do that.”

It was expected that the new five-year integrated degree would start in 2020, with the first students graduating and registering in summer 2025.

The Scottish Government said that the “consensus view” from an advisory group – comprising of the two schools of pharmacy, Community Pharmacy Scotland and other stakeholders – was to recommend progressing from the current four-year degree and one-year pre-registration training to a five-year degree. However at the time the report was published by the advisory group, it was admitted that the decision “was not unanimous” and now Robert Gordon and Strathclyde have revealed their dissent.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said last night: “The Chief Pharmaceutical Officer announced earlier this year our aim to move to a more integrated initial education and training programme for pharmacists.

“We will be establishing a series of implementation groups, which the schools of pharmacy will be involved in, to consider recruitment and admissions, funding, programme development and quality management and governance.”