Mrs S. Putter, Pharmacy Council, South Africa
A four-year pharmacy training programme is offered at seven schools of pharmacy in South Africa and a joint B. Pharm degree started at MEDUNSA/Technikon Pretoria, in 1999. Traditionally, UPC focused mainly on biopharmaceutical and pharmaceutical outcomes. Selection of students is based on pass-marks in mathematics and science subjects with limited focus on commitment or potential. The UPC endorsed by the South African Pharmacy Council (SAPC) is content-based and no longer outcome-based. Lack of inter-disciplinary teaching due to rigid institutional divisions and the fact that educational facilities are not linked to practice sites are other problems encountered with UPC.
Policies and legislation in South Africa, including the National Drug Policy of 1996, the 1997 Pharmacy Amendment Act, and the Medicines and Related Substances Control Act of 1965, have influenced UPC development.
The National Drug Policy defined the role of the pharmacist in drug quality assurance, in the provision of safe and effective drugs, rational drug use, community education, in informing patients about the correct usage of drugs, and in training pharmacy support staff. Thus the overall practice of a pharmacist was identified to be in line with pharmaceutical care.
Education policies and legislation, such as the South African Quality Assurance Act of 1995, establishing national qualifications, and the Higher Education Act of 1997, equally influenced UPC. Moreover, labour legislation, for example, the National Skills Development Act of 1998, had an impact on UPC by directing skills development and career-pathing of professionals.
Unit standards for UPC were developed. They set out the required learning outcomes, entry requirements specific outcomes, embedded knowledge, assessment criteria, critical outcomes, and the range and context of learning.
Currently, pharmacy schools are in the process of re-designing their UPC in order to ensure that the unit standards are met by 2002. Multiple exit levels for students are being considered. Additionally, practical training is to be integrated into UPC. Schools of pharmacy still differ as to which course years certain pharmacy subjects are to be introduced and in the level of exposure to pharmacy practice.
Pharmacy graduates undergo a 12-month structured pre-registration internship prior to their registration with the SAPC. This is an attempt to address the discrepancies students may have in their pharmacy practice experience. The pre-registration year is successfully completed by passing a competency assessment examination.
Current challenges faced in UPC implementation in South Africa are the revision of pharmacy curricula, ensuring and assessing student competency prior to entering the profession, and the training of generalist pharmacists.