The Royal Pharmaceutical Society has joined others in warning that “ambitious” GPhC proposals for overhauling pharmacists’ initial education and training (IET) “will fail without funding”.
A GPhC consultation on updating IET standards for pharmacists closes today (Wednesday April 3). The headline change is a shift from a four-year degree plus pre-registration year to an integrated five-year degree including a 52-week placement.
The GPhC is arguing that IET needs to have a greater emphasis on clinical and communication skills. Other proposals include assessing prospective candidates’ values prior to admission to pharmacy schools and making hands-on learning placements more structured.
RPS director of education Gail Fleming said: “We welcome the GPhC’s ambition to see closer integration of academic study and learning in practice. However, meeting this ambition will require considerable investment and infrastructure.
“If these proposals are implemented prior to additional funding being secured, the potential disruption could pose a risk to the future supply of the pharmacy workforce. This comes just when pharmacists are playing an increasing role across the NHS to support better outcomes for patients.
IET changes “must have patient safety at their core,” Ms Fleming said, adding that there should be a “national approach to coordinating learning in practice placements so that employers can attract students from around the country.”
“With a current 20 per cent failure rate at registration, more transparency is needed so that students are able to see what outcomes are likely from a course, and can make an informed choice about where they choose to study.”
Read the RPS' consultation response here.
The Pharmacy Schools Council recently said that while it welcomed the GPhC’s “commitment to the evolution and enhancement of pharmacy programmes” there was “serious and realistic concern regarding resource and funding”.
The PhSC said that in addition to concerns around the need for increased investment, it is possible that “prospective students may react negatively to having to fund their own placements on five-year courses” and that this may “hit workforce” down the line.
The British Pharmaceutical Students’ Association echoed these responses to the five-year course proposals, saying it was in favour of an integrated degree – “albeit merely theoretically, largely as a result of remuneration concerns”.
In its draft response the BPSA also asked for clarification on the GPhC’s proposal that student pharmacists should be able to identify and implement diagnostic techniques and decide on the most appropriate course of action. The expectations appear to be stricter than those placed on current pre-reg pharmacists and there is a lack of clarity on which conditions this should cover, the BPSA said.
The BPSA said students “were largely happy” with being asked to use their diagnostic skills to identify appropriate patient interventions but warned that for some conditions this would require additional training.
The BPSA added: “ Increased remuneration as a result of acquiring and utilising such skills appeared to be a common theme. The need to have a clearly defined role and ensure that such changes do not effectively open the door for pharmacists to be more affordable (cheaper) GPs.
“Generally speaking respondents welcomed the idea and pointed out that pharmacists are increasingly expected to partake in the diagnosis of conditions.”