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More clinical training needed to prepare students for pharmacy roles

Professor Claire Anderson: The sector should find new ways of accrediting placements
Professor Claire Anderson: The sector should find new ways of accrediting placements

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?

Paul Summerfield, Community pharmacist

Now, correct me if I am wrong, but we have the head of pharmacy practice at Nottingham telling everybody that pharmacy undergraduates and pre-reg's are not prepared for future roles. In the same breath they state that pharmacy students from Nottingham "are much better prepared once they graduate" due to  pharmacy students conducting two six-month pre-reg placements as part of the programme, combined with “high-level clinical learning”, and courses in leadership and management.

Do I detect a bit of a PR exercise here or am I being sceptical?

Thomas Wilde, Community pharmacist

I tried doing the Foundation course through CPPE and although they were great in giving learning materials and tutors coming round to talk to you. The problem is that if you work in a busy pharmacy getting the time to actually do the course is nearly impossible. As a pre-reg you are given time off to study and unless the same is given for things like the foundation course any of us working all hours of the day will never be able to do it.

Peter Sainsburys, Community pharmacist

After over a decade of working in hospitals in the UK,  I can tell you now that "clinical" pharmacists are those who don't know any more than the rest of us, but will do almost anything to sit in their office just to dodge dispensary duties.

I have a story to tell you.

I once worked at a very large hospital in the South West. When I came back from my ward duties, the dispensary was in complete disarray. The route to the lavatory took me past one "clinical pharmacist" office, and before I tackled the oblivion in the dispensary, I went to do a number one. What I saw stuck with me for life. A hideously overweight woman, who claims to be a clinical pharmacist, sat back in her chair pushing handful after handful of jelly babies into her mouth, despite the fact that she knew the dispensary was in trouble. The laziest, rudest pharmacist I have ever seen.

I'm sure there are some great clinical pharmacists out there, but as soon as they start shunning dispensary work, they become parasites, not pharmacists.

They do get out of their offices sometimes, to follow a consultant on a ward round to kill an hour or two before the mid morning coffee break.

Joking aside though, I did work with some genuinely hard working hospital pharmacists early in my career but to be honest, there was a lot of time wasting. There is a reason why people wait an hour (or more) for out patient prescriptions.

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