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National Apprenticeship Week - mental health pharmacy

08 February 2021

To be a qualified mental health pharmacist, students undertake a five-year degree, and often followed by a two-year post graduate qualification. Usually, the first roles any pharmacist secure are Pharmacy Technicians and Assistant Technical Officers, who are an essential part of the service.

Many young people choose to go straight into the world of work rather than continuing their education at University. At West London NHS Trust, our Pharmacy team has proudly introduced an accredited apprenticeship scheme to employ and train Mental Health Pharmacy Technicians and Assistant Technical Officers (ATO). Training can last up to four years.

Amy Deol and Ashvin Issury are two Trust apprentices embracing their new roles, having moved on from very different jobs.

Amy was a cabin crew member for a well-known airline. She felt that she couldn’t take this career further and after seeing this great opportunity to be a pharmacy apprentice, she had to apply.

“I’m learning so much about mental illness, medications used in mental illness, different computer systems and operational systems. It’s amazing to have the opportunity to learn a variety of important responsibilities.

“I work for such a lovely team. Everyone is so approachable. There are some very highly specialist pharmacist and clinicians, managers and education supervisors, and they’re always willing to answer any questions I have.”

Ashvin Issury worked as a Porter at the Trust for a year before joining the Pharmacy team. He moved because he always wanted to enter the field of medicine.

“I was surprised at how much I’m learning during my apprenticeship. My understanding of mental health pharmacy is becoming a lot greater than I could ever imagine,” he says.

“At times, I thought it would be quite intimidating to be learning about complicated medical processes. But everyone at the Pharmacy team have putt me at ease and it’s giving me the confidence and assurance that I can be successful in a career within pharmacy.”

Raj Parekh, the Trust’s Chief Pharmacist, says: “The recent expansion in the Pharmacy team and the appointment of a Pharmacy Education Programme Director has allowed us to expand our workforce to include several trainee posts, which we were unable to offer previously.

“The interest we get for apprenticeships is extraordinary and the apprentices are supported with a structured training programme with education supervisors and tutors providing encouragement and supervision. Some of our team have had the opportunity for career development and completed courses to allow them to be education supervisors/tutors. This investment, time and effort was well spent as we’ve seen improvement in recruitment and retention in our service.

“The whole process is in line with our workforce strategy to grow our future workforce. The new trainee posts have added vigour and enthusiasm to the whole team.”

National Apprenticeship Week is between 8-14 February. For more about NHS apprenticeships, click here.