Every day the public benefits from the vital role that pharmacies play in delivering care, helping people to maintain and improve their health and wellbeing. During a recent visit to Bedminster Pharmacy in Bristol, I saw first-hand how one team can make a real difference to its patients, and the integral role that the pharmacist pre-registration trainees were playing. Equally, the team showed me the opportunity these experiences offered trainees to learn from exposure to first-class pharmacy services.
Plans for the future of pharmacy from governments in England, Scotland and Wales emphasise its role will continue to evolve at pace. They envisage pharmacists and other members of their teams taking on increasing responsibility in supporting patients to improve their health and wellbeing.
Exactly how and where this will happen – community pharmacies, care homes, hospitals, GP practices and domiciliary settings – will vary, but the expectations of the public will rise to match that. Pharmacy has to respond to these changing needs.
Inevitably, initial education and training will need to continue to evolve to reflect these changes. This will equip pharmacists and pharmacy technicians with the skills they need to work flexibly alongside other health and care professionals, and respond with confidence to the changing needs of people needing care.
In January, the GPhC launched a landmark consultation to modernise the initial education and training of pharmacists. Our proposals seek to ensure that future pharmacists have the knowledge, attitudes and behaviours they will need to be prepared for practice. The standards are vital in making sure that pharmacists are appropriately prepared to deliver pharmacy services and improve them.
We are proposing to integrate the four-year MPharm degree and the year of pre-registration training that follows, resulting in one five-year programme. Underlying this is an intention to strengthen practical learning with patients, interprofessional learning, and the focus on developing clinical and communication skills.
We recognise that across the countries of Great Britain there are likely to be different ways of delivering the standards. We will make sure our accreditation methodology allows for diversity and innovation in delivery.
We are also proposing a number of other changes. These include revising the learning outcomes that student and trainee pharmacists have to achieve to focus on developing clinical and communications skills, while still retaining the critical importance of science.
We recognise that our proposals may present a number of challenges for course providers, employers, commissioners and students, and may involve some difficult decisions.
I would stress that it is essential we properly understand the nature of those challenges in order to make sure that the new standards can be delivered. Now is the time for everyone involved in pharmacy to think innovatively about how education and training needs to change, to fully equip pharmacists in the future for the roles they need to play.
The consultation will be open until April 3. Those of you reading this are likely to work with pharmacists who will have been educated and trained under these new standards. I urge you to go to the GPhC website, read the consultation and respond to the survey to let us know your views. What you tell us will help shape the future of pharmacist education and training.
You can read more about the proposals on our website.
Nigel Clarke is chair of the GPhC