Training and qualification framework for specialist pharmacists on the way
PHARMACIST Alexandre Chan of the National Cancer Centre Singapore accompanies doctors on ward rounds and sees cancer patients each time they complete a cycle of chemotherapy. In these consultations, he advises them on the side effects they may experience from chemotherapy. He also helps the patients manage the potential drug interactions that may occur from the many medications they have to take, and the symptoms and complications that may arise from treatment. There will soon be more specialist pharmacists like Associate Professor Chan.
The Pharmacy Specialist Accreditation Board, formed three months ago, will roll out a training and qualification framework for the accreditation and registration of specialist pharmacists later this year. It is firming up details for such a structure for five fields of speciality: cardiology, geriatrics, infectious diseases, oncology and psychiatry. These were chosen based on Singapore’s health-care needs and the number of pharmacists here who are already practising as specialists, said Singapore Pharmacy Council president Wu Tuck Seng, ahead of a pledge affirmation ceremony for newly registered pharmacists yesterday.
The council, the regulatory body for the profession, is also looking at introducing paediatrics, nutrition and ambulatory care as fields of specialisation, he added. Yesterday’s 157 newly registered pharmacists bring their total number here to 2,135. It is not known how many are already in the five selected fields of specialisation, but the council expects at least 20 to automatically qualify for the register. Health Minister Gan Kim Yong, in a welcome address at the ceremony at the College of Medicine Building, said specialist pharmacists are needed to provide specialised care for complex cases in tertiary hospitals. “By taking a leadership role in drug management, they can meet patients’ needs and add value to the health-care team through reducing drug-related problems and preventable adverse drug events,” he added. Prof Chan, an oncology specialist pharmacist, cited a local study which showed that almost 50 per cent of cancer patients surveyed took complementary medicine, which is worrying because of potential interactions with chemotherapy. But the patients often do not tell their oncologists about the use of such drugs; instead they would rather tell their pharmacists. “That is because they have more interaction with us, and we are focused on medication issues that patients may have. As drug experts, we would be more thorough,” he said. Assistant Professor Joyce Lee, a pharmacist specialising in chronic diseases, said pharmacists do not replace doctors but are instead a “value-add” service that result in better outcomes for patients.
Having specialist pharmacists also means greater room for “new ideas, new research, new cures and new treatments”, said Mr Wu. “There is an opportunity for us to concentrate on research in Asian-based diseases such as liver cancer. Or the types of conditions commonly seen in this part of the world.” The Singapore Pharmacy Council is also revamping a training programme that pharmacists have to undergo before they are registered. The new programme, which will be piloted next month, involves three blocks of three-month rotations at different institutions. These can be in hospitals, community pharmacies or pharmaceutical firms. Currently, pre-registered pharmacists are attached to one of 15 approved institutions – such as hospitals and community pharmacies – for nine months.