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We need to prepare future pharmacists to be able to work in all sectors

We are writing in response to the General Pharmaceutical Council’s (GPhC) view that the current MPharm degree fails to equip pharmacists for future roles (2015;294:677). To say that this is true would be unfair to current providers of the MPharm where there are some excellent initiatives on helping students develop into pharmacists. The critical change needs to be integration of the degree with workplace-based placements. The proposed integrated MPharm cannot come quickly enough.

As the roles and responsibilities of the pharmacy team extends over the next five years — in line with the NHS in England’s ‘Five year forward view’ — there will be a need to promote different types of placements and look towards fully integrating interprofessional learning with doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals. Much of this is already included in the ‘Future pharmacist’ standards to which MPharm programmes are now being accredited.

What is lacking, however, is the idea of producing a pharmacist who can work across all sectors. Many pre-registration training providers focus the training on their own sectors. There needs to be a smoother transition from undergraduate to a pharmacist with knowledge and skills for multi-sector working being developed to avoid the need to retrain simple concepts and skills.

An emerging sector is pharmacists working in GP practices and the current MPharm does not necessarily equip pharmacists in this area. Early exposure to this emerging sector is critical if there is to be a sustainable career path for pharmacists in general practice. In the south of England, we are working on providing early exposure to pre-registration trainees in general practice so that they can better understand the roles the pharmacy team can play throughout the patient journey.

The future roles of pharmacy technicians and pharmacy support staff are perhaps more of a challenge, as identified by the GPhC, and it is our view that these roles will complement the roles of the pharmacists to ensure that the best possible care is provided to our patients. It is time to stop thinking of pharmacy as its component parts in terms of sectors and the groups of staff providing pharmacy services but to think of the entire pharmacy team as one. This may require a change to the initial education and training of pharmacy technicians and support staff, which is equally important to consider.

Aamer Safdar

Principal pharmacist, lead for education and development, Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust

Atif Shamim

Programme director, community education providers network pharmacy project, Health Education Kent, Surrey and Sussex

Ravi Sharma

Director of primary care pharmacy, training and development and lead GP practice based pharmacist, DMC Healthcare

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2015.20068784

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