The government should take responsibility for planning and overseeing the development of the necessary human resources. The strategies chosen should realistically reflect the needs and capacity of the country, and an adequate budget should be allocated. Consideration of the following aspects will help to ensure the development of a human resources policy that is supportive of national drug policy implementation.
It is necessary to plan from an early stage and to do so for short-, medium- and longer-term needs. A quantitative analysis of the human resources needed (including a realistic estimate of the attrition rate) may help to set priorities. Financial planning should match the financial resources with priority needs. Good planning and appropriate lead times will help to ensure that a sufficient number of trained people are available. Plans should include a career development policy and measures to retain staff in the service.
Education and training
A national drug policy requires a wide range of skills. Staff at all levels need to be familiar with key policy issues that affect the quality, supply and use of drugs, and should understand the key objectives of the drug policy. For each category of personnel, the nature and extent of their involvement in the policy should be clearly defined. This will make it possible to decide on the orientation and level of training required for each category.
There should be a number of minimum educational and training requirements for each category. For example, personnel and staff involved in specific activities to ensure the quality of drugs should be given adequate training in specific areas of quality assurance. Those involved in the drug supply system should receive training in management, supervision and certain administrative skills that they require.
Health providers in general, and prescribers in particular, should be trained in the principles of rational drug use. Adequate time for training in these areas should be provided both in formal and in continuing education programmes. Collaboration with institutions that can provide continuous and sustained training can be explored.
Pharmacists, pharmacy assistants and prescribing nurses are also in a good position to promote the rational use of drugs, and their roles should receive increased attention. In developing countries, the training and supervision of pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and assistants should be emphasized. The appropriate skills and training needs must be identified first.
Career development and team building
Long-term plans are essential for ensuring a balance between training activities and human resources needs. Career planning is important in helping to recruit personnel for government service and in preventing the loss of staff to the private sector. Continuing education programmes and opportunities to collaborate with others can motivate staff, and help to keep them up to date. In addition, attention must be given to the payment of adequate wages and other incentives to retain staff.
The goals of the drug policy and the importance of the various components must be communicated to all concerned. Staff should be given clear responsibilities and targets, and should be informed of successes and failures through monitoring and evaluation. If they feel that they are part of a team, this will help to maintain a sense of involvement, purpose and motivation.
Collaboration with national institutions
Activities that require specialist expertise - for example, drug evaluation and drug information services - can often be carried out more effectively within universities, training institutions or professional societies than within the health ministries. Collaboration between drug regulatory authorities and universities, research institutions, professional societies and individuals maximizes the use of national expertise and resources. It also builds up a network of people who are knowledgeable and involved in the development and implementation of the drug policy. Outside specialists can fill gaps where national expertise is lacking and can be used in national training programmes to pass on their expertise. When appropriate, professionals can be sent for short training programmes abroad.