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Pharmacy undergraduate enrolment doubles in Northern Ireland

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Queen’s University Belfast and Ulster University have seen up to 45 per cent increase in the number of students enrolled on MPharm course  

The number of pharmacy undergraduates studying in Northern Ireland has doubled since the launch of Pharmacy Futures Campaign NI in 2020.

Cathy Harrison, chief pharmaceutical officer for Northern Ireland, announced the success of the campaign during a panel discussion at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) annual conference on 10 November 2023 in London.

Harrison explained that the campaign was launched to deal with “very serious” pharmacy workforce issues, and mainly focussed on “building capacity” by “getting more pharmacists into our universities.”

She added that the benefit of this campaign could be seen when more than 200 students start their foundation year training with them next year, and that will continue every year following.

David Webb, chief pharmaceutical officer for England, who took part in the discussion, highlighted the importance of focusing on retaining pharmacists and reforming the profession.

A spokesperson for Queen’s University Belfast told Pharmaceutical Journal that they saw a 44 per cent increase in the number of students enrolled on its MPharm course since 2019-20.

Ulster University reported an increase of 45 per cent in the number of enrolled pharmacy undergraduates, from 179 in 2020-21 to 260 in 2022-23.

A spokesperson for the university also informed the publication that 343 students have registered for the 2023-24 academic session, although the actual figure will be confirmed after 1 December 2023.

The NHS long-term workforce plan aims to increase training places for pharmacists by nearly 50 per cent to around 5,000 places by 2031-32.

In order to accommodate placements for future undergraduate students, there needs to be greater capacity in all pharmacy sectors, the Pharmacy Schools Council, which represents pharmacy schools across the UK, said in a statement.

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