Pharmacy degree must evolve to meet the needs of society
The comment article by Chijioke Agomo was an interesting and informative contribution to the discussion on the maintenance of pharmacist employment (PJ 2014;292:638). However, it did lack positive responses to the increasing problem that he identified.
When I decided to become a pharmacy undergraduate in 1959, it was on the basis that a BPharm degree from a Russell Group university would enable me to have a wide choice of career options. This indeed proved to be the case because, on graduation, I was offered work in retail, hospital, academia, industry and marketing. I could even have taken articles to become a solicitor.
But the world has changed dramatically since those early halcyon years. Society now looks for graduates who not only have the basic technical knowledge that an undergraduate degree course offers, but also those who can offer added value skills in specialist areas.
Community pharmacy, now and in future decades, needs graduates capable of managing the technical roles of maintaining profitable businesses in an extremely competitive environment. Healthcare now requires graduates with clinical skills up to the level of becoming independent prescribers and to be an integral part of hospital treatment teams.
My recommendations may well be regarded as simplistic, but I do believe that they form the basis of a strategy for the maintenance of our profession.
Initially, then, I would suggest that a broad-ranging four-year basic degree course would be mandatory and graduates could continue maintaining the regulated sale and supply of healthcare products. But there would need to be a fifth-year academic option with two intensive areas of study and development.
On the one hand, we should develop an MBA programme which would produce graduates capable of taking strategic managerial roles in retail business and pharmaceutical marketing. On the other hand, we could develop a clinical qualification for those who wish to offer an expanding role in healthcare not only in hospitals, but also in community medicine. This qualification would ensure that the clinical advantages of pharmacist involvement in the NHS would be irresistible for a nation seeking to optimise the delivery of healthcare.
Pharmacists can only hope that the General Pharmaceutical Council can produce an educational and training policy that society is prepared to remunerate in the public interest.
Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2014.20065557
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