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Duncan’s blog: transforming the education and training of pharmacists

17 December 2020

Preparing future pharmacists for a greater role in providing clinical care to patients 

Over the past year, we have seen pharmacy professionals adapting their professional practice to provide patient care in a wide range of new circumstances, including being involved in public health programmes in new ways. I feel that it’s shown both the healthcare sector and patients and the public just how capable, flexible and adaptable pharmacy can be.

At the same time, following on from a major consultation we held in 2019, we have been working with key stakeholders to take forward major changes to the initial education and training of pharmacists.  These changes will enable pharmacists to play a much greater role in providing clinical care to patients and the public from their first day on the register – the value of which has been so recently demonstrated.

A key step in implementing these reforms is the approval last week by our governing Council of new standards for initial education and training of pharmacists

The new standards introduce a number of important changes to ensure pharmacists are equipped for their future roles. They incorporate the skills, knowledge and attributes for prescribing, to enable pharmacists to prescribe independently from the point of registration.

They also emphasise the application of science in clinical practice as well as key skills needed for current and future roles, including professional judgement, management of risk, diagnostic and consultation skills. These are all key capabilities pharmacists will need to meet the demands of providing care, both now and in the future.

The standards also set out requirements for organisations providing initial education and training and make the fifth year of initial education and training a foundation training year with strengthened supervision and support.

Overall, the standards have a greater emphasis on equality, diversity and inclusion to combat discrimination and address health inequalities.

When implemented, these standards will mean that universities, employers and statutory education bodies will also be working together in new ways to give student pharmacists more clinical experience and provide enhanced support and quality assurance across all five years of education and training.

We will continue to work very closely with all key stakeholders to implement these significant changes and we’ll start by developing a transition plan for implementing the standards in stages over the coming years.

We know implementing these reforms won’t be easy, and full implementation will take several years, but successfully delivering these reforms together will bring long-term benefits for the health service and patients and will help to meet the ambitions of governments and the NHS in each country across the UK.