Pharmacists can now apply to become specialists

Photo above: Looking forward to the certification of specialists are (from left) Dr Doreen Tan; Prof Chui Wai Keung; Health Sciences Authority deputy director Jalene Poh; Mr James Cheong, a senior director at Parexel, which deals with clinical trials; Ms Joy Chong, Watsons' senior pharmacist who is pursuing further training in community pharmacy; Mr Lim See Wah and Ms Wendy Ang.

There are pharmacists who specialise in different areas of medicine, and from tomorrow they can apply to be recognised as such.

The newly formed Pharmacy Specialists Accreditation Board will accept submissions for pharmacist specialists in oncology, cardiology, geriatrics, infectious diseases and psychiatry.

Minister of Health Gan Kim Yong, making the announcement on Saturday at a congress at the Shangri-La Hotel, said well-certified pharmacists are needed to promote safe and effective drug use.

"With the growing emphasis on integrated care, we need pharmacists to take on expanded roles in the community, long- term care and home-care settings," he said. The two-day Singapore Pharmacy Congress gathers more than 700 experts.

An estimated 20 are expected to be eligible when the accreditation process starts, said an MOH spokesman. There are more than 2,000 registered pharmacists here, up from 1,814 in 2010, and some of them are now expected to go for further training with this latest move. Pharmacist specialists can expect more senior jobs in hospitals, for example, in supervisory roles.

Pharmacists said the move would attract more to join the field and offer patients better care. "It's a sign that pharmacy has reached a higher standard," said principal clinical pharmacist Wendy Ang of Changi General Hospital. "Potential students will see the accreditation as something they can aspire towards."

Ms Ang, who is trained in geriatrics, said patients would benefit as health care is now more complicated, with new drugs, guidelines and models of care.

The accreditation process will take about eight weeks. To qualify, pharmacists must have reached a certain level of experience, said chief pharmacist Lita Chew. They also need to meet education and training requirements. A number of overseas programmes provide specialist training, but certification itself does not mean they are automatically regarded as specialists.

They will also need three to five years of work experience to qualify, among other criteria. Pharmacists who obtain accreditation from the board can approach the Singapore Pharmacy Council to register as a specialist pharmacist.

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