The British Pharmaceutical Students’ Association (BPSA), as part of its commitment to represent its 14,500 undergraduate and pre-registration trainee members, wrote to the major political parties contesting the general election to advocate a number of policies voted for by members at the annual conferences over the past three years. These policies reflect our members’ opinions on the future education of undergraduates; issues affecting international students; evidence-based medicine; the role of pharmacy in the service commissioning process; future professional avenues open to pharmacists; and the decriminalisation of dispensing errors.
In September 2014, Greg Clark, Minister for Universities, Science and Cities, wrote a letter to Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and Health Education England (HEE) detailing that the outgoing coalition government would not support the implementation of student number controls for pharmacy, contrary to the views of most respondents to the HEFCE/HEE consultation, and to the BPSA’s standing on the matter. The BPSA is seeking the opening of a second stage of consultation to ascertain the best course of action going forward, while also working in conjunction with HEE and HEFCE to ensure the planned integrated degree programme is fit for purpose if it is launched in the future.
Currently, international students studying pharmacy in Britain may not be able to complete their pre-registration training here because a large proportion of trainee salaries fall below the threshold for successfully applying for a work visa. The BPSA advocates change to ensure international students can continue their training and register as pharmacists in Britain after completing their undergraduate studies here.
We also believe that the sale and dispensing of homeopathic remedies from registered premises should be avoided because of the lack of a conclusive evidence base for their use. This is contrary to the fundamental principle of evidence-based medicine, which is taught as part of our undergraduate and pre-registration training, and health policy should be changed to reflect this.
In order to ensure the appropriate funding and allocation of pharmacy-based services, pharmacists should have a mandatory seat on any relevant commissioning board for NHS services. Pharmacists are a fundamental part of the healthcare system, and this should be reflected in the commissioning of services.
Our members also support the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s call for pharmacists to be used in general practices and in accident and emergency (A&E) departments. Pharmacists are ideally placed to manage long-term conditions and the problems associated with them, minor ailments and medicines-related adverse events, which account for a significant proportion of GP appointments and A&E presentations. Supporting these proposals would demonstrate a commitment to long-term patient care and NHS sustainability.
Finally, we support the decriminalisation of inadvertent dispensing errors. These legislative changes will protect practitioners from prosecution as a result of an inadvertent error, bringing our profession in line with our healthcare colleagues, and protect patients by promoting a culture of error reporting.
The BPSA, on the receipt of responses from party representatives, will make these opinions publicly available to inform our members’ decisions when ballots open. Following the general election, the executive hopes to work with the government to enact the association’s policies and improve the educational experience and future career prospects of its members.
Michael J Champion
BPSA Secretary General elect 2015–2016
BPSA Eastern Area Coordinator 2014–2015