The Pharmacy Schools Council (PhSC) was disappointed to see reports in The Pharmaceutical Journal (9 September 2014) of Bill Scott’s comments at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society conference, which asserted a need to remove the science from the MPharm to focus on healthcare. The PhSC represents 27 schools of pharmacy and our members wish to highlight that the MPharm is rooted in science and to suggest science should be removed is entirely inappropriate. Pharmacists could not do the job without science. Indeed, a focus on healthcare requires a high degree of scientific knowledge. Pharmacists are the experts in medicines and a strong grounding in chemistry is essential to this. It is not a simple choice between being a healthcare professional and a scientist; it is the combination of both that makes a pharmacist.
Pharmacists make a vital contribution as healthcare professionals and there is an opportunity for the role of the pharmacist in hospital and community to be expanded, as is suggested in ‘Prescription for excellence’, the ambitious plan for pharmacy in Scotland. The position of a pharmacist as a scientist in the healthcare team is a unique selling point for the profession and should be seen to be a great strength rather than a weakness.
There is also an opportunity to consider the role of the pharmacist to ensure the strength of science within the MPharm is used to its full potential. These clinical skills can only be built on a strong foundation of science. In addition, the skill set developed by pharmacists can be applied in a number of settings, including, but not limited to, medicine design, medical information, medicine manufacture and design, the pharmaceutical industry and academia.
Discussions on undergraduate education in future must recognise that science is the backbone of the profession and is key to expanding the contribution made by pharmacists. Indeed, in its 2011 report, the Modernising Pharmacy Careers Programme Board highlighted that the vision of a pharmacist is of a “professional, a clinician and a scientist”.
The PhSC agrees that there is an opportunity to raise the profile of the contribution pharmacists make to healthcare and doing so would address the “mystery” of the profession. However, we strongly believe that taking an approach that reduces the emphasis placed on science will be to the detriment of the profession. Recognising the importance of science is central to the developing role of the pharmacist.
Pharmacy Schools Council