As the BPSA Conference draws to a close, pharmacy students were keen to grill key pharmacy figures on what to expect once they’ve worn their cap and gown, writes the BPSA's Emily Hemsworth
One of the highlights of this week's BPSA annual conference has undoubtedly been the Q&A session with a panel of some of pharmacy's most famous faces.
Rob Darracott of the CCA, Helen Gordon from the RPS, Joanne Martin from the regulator and Umesh Patel of the NPA (right) faced questions from a packed auditorium on everything from job prospects to genomics in pharmacy.
The panel was certainly challenged, with questions covering topics such as university accreditation, regulation of the number of UK pharmacy students, the need for a universal pre-registration date for student placements and advice on starting up a local pharmacy.
But the subjects that sparked the most debate were those that will directly affect our student members in the workplace after graduation - the availability of hospital placements and pharmacy jobs; the future of pharmacy in relation to the ongoing NHS changes; and advice on how to progress in the reformed health service.
Discussing work placements and pharmacy jobs, the panel acknowledged that more effective communication was required between academic institutions and employers. It was pointed out that too often employers in the public and private sectors make decisions about the numbers of work placements based on their own requirements - there is a need for more employers to be connected to pharmacy workforce planning to agree the number of placements available.
The panel also acknowledged that the number of pharmacy jobs remains an urgent issue. Discussions between the Department of Innovation, Business and Skills and the Department of Health should go some way to addressing future employment challenges, and it was noted that the changes in the NHS will focus on clinical elements of our profession, so opportunities should exist to improve the effective use of pharmacy skills.
Expanding on this, the need to promote pharmacy across other health professions and the NHS was emphasised. In particular, the relevance of pharmacy interventions and the benefits to organisations of having pharmacists and pharmacy graduates as part of their workforce should be highlighted.
The panel also agreed that although the professional role of pharmacists is very important in the NHS, students must be prepared to look at careers in areas outside the traditional pharmacy route and stay alert to the opportunities being created.
The NHS reforms will create many challenges, the panel accepted. But it concluded that if pharmacy can prove the importance of its role to government, opportunities could be created especially within growth areas such as public health, advice on staying well and managing the health of people with long-term conditions.
The BPSA is grateful to Rob, Helen, Joanne and Umesh for taking part in this year's conference and we hope to see them again next year.
Emily Hemsworth is a PR Officer for the BPSA
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