AS Singapore’s healthcare needs continue to evolve, the nation’s pharmacy sector will undergo changes aimed at boosting both capacity and capabilities. “To meet the healthcare demands, we estimate that we will need to grow the healthcare professional workforce and we definitely need more pharmacists in the direct patient care sector, as well as in the community at large to look after the elderly and those with chronic illness,” said Minister for Health Gan Kim Yong, speaking at the Singapore Pharmacy Council’s (SPC) Pharmacist’s Pledge Affirmation Ceremony yesterday. “We will also need specialist pharmacists to provide specialised care for complex cases in tertiary hospitals.”
Come June, the SPC is rolling out a pilot programme which will see a revamp of the pre-registration pharmacist training. To qualify as a pharmacist, graduates must go through preregistration training which is typically a one-year programme – nine months at SPC-approved organisations such as Singapore General Hospital and three months at the National University of Singapore (NUS). In 2010, SPC called for a training review committee to study the pre-registration framework and the committee came up with recommendations advocating the setting of a national objective, implementing a modular rotation training model as well as standardising training curriculum and assessment.
As part of the rotation model, participants in the pilot programme will now be sent to three organisations during the ninemonth period, instead of one, for a more well-rounded experience. According to assistant professor Lita Chew, registrar for SPC and chief pharmacist at MOH, the pilot starts with 13 pre-registered pharmacists, slightly over 10 per cent of the total batch for this year. The number of participants in the pilot programme will be ramped up each year, with a full launch expected to take place by 2015.
In addition, to forge more career pathways, the Pharmacy Specialist Accreditation Board is working on a pharmacy specialists’ accreditation framework, likely to be implemented by the end of this year. Starting with five specialities – oncology, infectious diseases, cardiology, geriatrics, and psychiatry – the framework will define the criteria necessary for pharmacists to be registered as specialists in a specific field. SPC will maintain the register of specialists. Meanwhile, the NUS department of pharmacy is looking to beef up its training capacity and will raise its intake from 160 pharmacy students currently to 240 eventually. There are 2,135 registered pharmacists in Singapore.