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Pharmacy is global leader on workforce development

The pharmacy profession is a global leader when it comes to new models of workforce development, according to Ian Bates, professor of pharmacy education at UCL School of Pharmacy, who was speaking at the annual European Association of Hospital Pharmacists Congress in Barcelona last week (28 March 2014).

A new model for workforce development has been proposed by the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) and this is currently being considered by the World Health Organization, he said, adding that it has attracted interest from the medical and nursing professions. The model developed by FIP is the first example of a global workforce model to be looked at by the WHO, he continued. “So, whatever comes out of the WHO’s technical working group, transformative education policy will have the stamp of pharmacy on it,” he said.

Professor Bates told the audience that there was a worldwide shortage of seven million healthcare professionals, including pharmacists. “In the UK, it may be that we have too many pharmacists, but in Zimbabwe people are dying from a lack of pharmacists,” he told PJ Online. In order to tackle this deficit the WHO is pushing the Universal Health Coverage agenda, he said. Part of the solution could be an educational system that responds to the needs of the community, a so called “needs-based” model, which is what FIP has developed, explained Professor Bates. There needs to be a flexible workforce with competence-based workforce planning, which he said was due to a number of strategic drivers, such as an ageing population, technology, money and government policies.

He told PJ Online that FIP is interested in the global pharmacy perspective — some countries have no pharmacy schools and very few pharmacists, resulting in poorer access to medicines and a less healthy population, he explained.

Following the talk at the EAHP congress, concerns were raised by the audience about whether pharmacy degrees in different countries, with different lengths of study, could be considered equal. Professor Bates explained that in Australia students receive a Bachelors degree, in the UK a Masters degree and in the US a Doctorate level degree. However, as far as FIP is able to determine, there seems to be no significant difference in the capabilities of these three groups of graduates, but there is a big difference in the cost of the degree, he said. “Personally, I am worried about the PharmD model, which is extraordinarily expensive, when we have a situation where we are short globally of seven million healthcare workers … but I accept that universities are autonomous,” he said.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2014.11136728

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