Regarding "Spare the special pleading" (Letters, 1 November). It is good to know that Kevin Smith's limited knowledge of pharmacy education has not inhibited him from expressing his strident views. To help him understand the issues, we would refer him to the following documents (all available online): the All-Party Pharmacy Group report The Future of Pharmacy (June 2007); the Department of Health White Paper Pharmacy in England: Building on Strengths - Delivering the Future (April 2008); and the DoH discussion paper Modernising Pharmacy Careers Programme: Review of Pharmacist Undergraduate Education and Pre-registration Training and Proposals for Reform (April 2011). Here he will find details of pharmacists' current and future roles and the educational needs required to achieve them. Smith might be surprised to learn that matters have moved beyond "the provision of medicines that have already been packaged".
He may also wish to pop down to his local pharmacy to find out what it does now, as indeed might Laurie Taylor! ("Keep on taking the pills", The Poppletonian, 1 November).
For further information, Smith may wish to consult Future Pharmacists: Standards for the Initial Education and Training of Pharmacists, a General Pharmaceutical Council report published in May 2011. It clearly indicates that the primary role and central thrust of the pharmacy degree is the education of pharmacists, which requires the achievement of a large set of professional competencies, along with a judgement on students' "fitness to practise".
Once he has read all these, we are sure he will agree that pharmacy education is more akin to that of other healthcare professions than general science degrees. The problem we highlight is that unlike other healthcare professions, there is no mechanism to manage supply and demand in the educational process for pharmacists. This may leave students stranded and unable to complete their education, which is not only wasteful of resources and people but also unkind.
John Smart, Chair, Pharmacy Schools Council
Vikesh Kakad, President, British Pharmacy Students' Association