Pioneering initiative launched to increase the number of pharmacists in the South West

The Universities of Bath and Plymouth are teaming up to deliver a highly regarded pharmacy degree and address a shortage of pharmacists in the South West.

  • Published on Tuesday 2 January 2024
  • Last updated on Tuesday 2 January 2024

Two leading universities are joining forces to address the urgent need for more pharmacists, nationally and in South West England.

From September 2024, the highly ranked University of Bath MPharm pharmacy course will also be delivered at the University of Plymouth, significantly increasing the opportunities for students to study this subject in the region.

Pharmacists are listed on the national shortage occupations list, and there is a particular shortage in the South West, with the highest community pharmacy vacancy rate in England at 14% vs 8% nationally.

Professor Julian Chaudhuri, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education) at the University of Bath, says: "The University of Bath MPharm is one of the most successful and highly regarded in the UK. We are delighted to work with the University of Plymouth to offer this course to students at an additional location, to enable them to benefit from the University of Bath’s expertise in pharmacy whilst studying in Plymouth and being part of a large healthcare student population.

"This collaboration will give students more opportunities to study a top quality pharmacy course, increase the numbers of pharmacy graduates in the South West, significantly contributing to healthcare within the region."

The partnership brings together the University of Bath’s longstanding expertise in pharmacy education and research with the University of Plymouth’s excellence in providing health and social care education.

It will be delivered in close collaboration with NHS England and many local stakeholders. This is an exciting time for the profession as changes to pharmacy education will allow all pharmacists to prescribe on registration from 2026, increasing the diversity of roles within the career.

Professor John Curnow, the University of Plymouth’s Deputy Vice Chancellor, Education and Student Experience, said: "We’re excited to be part of this partnership between Plymouth, Bath and NHS England. Our pharmacy students will learn in new practice-based and clinical teaching spaces, with consultation rooms and simulation equipment, all at the heart of our campus in the centre of Britain’s Ocean City.

"Plymouth is already home to more than 4,500 health and social care students, studying everything from medicine and dentistry, to nursing and physiotherapy, in our state-of-the-art facilities - including the new £33 million InterCity Place development - and working closely with the largest teaching hospital in Devon and Cornwall.

"Adding the pharmacy degree to the options available in Plymouth means we now offer an even broader suite of pathways into careers that will make a tremendously positive difference to the health and wellbeing of people in our region and beyond."

Students on the University of Bath’s four-year MPharm degree consistently perform well in the NHS Oriel recruitment process for their Foundation Year place. Graduates achieve high pass rates in the General Pharmaceutical Council’s Registration Assessment; in 2023 the pass rate for University of Bath graduates was 96.36%, the highest in the UK.

Rhiannon Hardie, who is working as a pharmacist in Torpoint just outside Plymouth, having graduated from the University of Bath’s MPharm programme in 2021, said: "I knew I wanted to be a pharmacist from my teenage years, and this was a great course that really prepared me for the role in the real world. When choosing where to study, I knew I wanted to move away from home in Cornwall, but equally wanted to be close enough that I could get back easily. The fact that the Universities of Bath and Plymouth are joining forces to offer this course further into the South West is brilliant, and such a positive move to inspire more pharmacists of the future."

The course enjoys a high ranking in university league tables. Bath is ranked in the top five nationally for pharmacy and pharmacology in The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2024 and top 10 in The Complete University Guide 2024.