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More clinical training needed to prepare students for pharmacy roles

Pharmacy students cannot rely on undergraduate degrees and pre-registration training to prepare them for the growing number of clinical roles, a university professor has warned.

Professor Claire Anderson, head of pharmacy practice and policy at the University of Nottingham, told C+D she is both “sad” and “disappointed” pharmacists have not been awarded “more funding for clinical training within the undergraduate programme”.

“It is truly a shame” that pharmacy is “still not recognised as a truly clinical profession”, or given the same funding from the Office for Students and Research England – formerly Higher Educational Funding Council for England – to send students on placements in clinical settings as medicine and other clinical professions, she said.

Speaking to C+D at the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) Congress in Glasgow last week (September 4), Professor Anderson – who is also a Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) English board member – said that while the pharmacy and patient simulations offered at Nottingham and other universities are “very good”, it is “not the same as seeing real patients”.

“Unless we start accrediting [pharmacy students] for work they do on their holidays” it will continue to “a big problem”.

“I find it sad. The chief pharmacist [of England, Dr Keith Ridge] knows that – I tell him regularly,” she added.

“More clinically prepared”

The University of Nottingham has “tried to be ahead of the game” by designing a five-year integrated degree, during which pharmacy students conduct two six-month pre-reg placements as part of the programme, combined with “high-level clinical learning”, and courses in leadership and management, Professor Anderson explained. These students “are much better prepared” once they graduate, she said.

Foundation programme “the way forward”

Professor Anderson admitted securing the necessary funding for clinical placements from HEFCE may be unlikely, but argued the sector should “move forward and find new ways of accrediting placements” for aspiring pharmacists to get more clinical experience.

Once qualified, the RPS foundation programme – which the society says will enable pharmacists in their first 1,000 days of practice to “gain knowledge, skills and behaviours essential across all sectors and settings” – is “really important”, she said.

The programme provides newly qualified pharmacists with “support and practice to learn how to prescribe and diagnose”, Professor Anderson added.

Do you think the pharmacy undergraduate degree needs updating?

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