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Chief Pharmaceutical Officer (CPO), Cathy Harrison, has sent a letter to registrants of the Pharmaceutical Society NI following the Society’s approval of new initial education and training standards for pharmacists, marking marks a fundamental and exciting shift towards clinical practice.

‘The approval by the Council of the Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland of new initial education and training standards for pharmacists marks a fundamental and exciting shift towards clinical practice for pharmacists,’ the CPO said in her letter. ‘It marks the biggest change in pharmacy education since the introduction of a four-year Masters’ level degree in 1997, and before that the requirement for a university degree to become a pharmacist in 1970.

‘As Chief Pharmaceutical Officer, I wholeheartedly welcome these long anticipated and essential changes, which are being introduced as part of the wider joint reform of the Initial Education and Training of Pharmacists taking place across the UK and which support the implementation of the recommendations for change made in the recently published Pharmacy Workforce Review. While still retaining sufficient scientific training to support rational and logical thinking, the changes to the standards will help to generate new cohorts of pharmacists with enhanced clinical skills, developed across an improved five-year continuum of training before registration, satisfying the ever increasing demand for high quality pharmacy professional skills from patients and the health service.

‘This new generation of pharmacists will be independent prescribers from their day of registration and so will be able to play a much bigger part in caring for patients with long term health conditions, in partnership with patients, carers and other members of the healthcare team. While these reforms will help to prepare the pharmacists of the future for increasingly clinical roles across all sectors, they also come at a critically important time for the existing pharmacist workforce in Northern Ireland. Each of you has risen to the challenges posed by the pandemic emergency, and as we seek to rebuild the Health Service after the pandemic it is more important than ever that today’s pharmacists are fully supported to develop their knowledge and skills along clear career and workforce development pathways.

‘Thank you to all those pharmacy professionals working to support people during this very challenging pandemic and I hope this is a welcome piece of good news during difficult times.’

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