Introducing a mandatory continuing professional development system: an evaluation of pharmacists' attitudes and experiences in Northern Ireland


School of Pharmacy, Queen's University Belfast, 97 Lisburn Road, Belfast BT9 7BL, Northern Ireland, UK. E-mail:


Objective To determine the extent of pharmacists' understanding of continuing professional development (CPD) prior to the implementation of a mandatory CPD system and the level of implementation of CPD, and to gain insight into pharmacists' attitudes towards the concept and the introduction of a mandatory CPD system.

Setting Northern Ireland.

Method A pre-piloted, self-administered, postal questionnaire was distributed to all registered pharmacists in Northern Ireland (n = 1821) in September 2004. A second mailing was carried out four weeks after the initial mailing. The questionnaire was divided into three sections to determine pharmacists' attitudes towards CPD, their understanding and experience of CPD and their attitudes towards sanctions and portfolio review.

Key findings A response rate of 41% was achieved after two mailings. The majority of respondents supported the concept of CPD, with over 84% of respondents agreeing that it was essential for all practising pharmacists to engage in CPD. Over half of respondents (56%) reported regularly identifying their learning needs, but only a quarter (25%) maintained a CPD portfolio. Female pharmacists were more likely to maintain a CPD portfolio. Less than half of respondents (42%) indicated that sanctions should be in place for pharmacists who do not engage in CPD.

Conclusion Overall, there was support for the concept of CPD but considerable variation was observed in the level of participation. A support system to encourage participation was favoured over sanctions for those pharmacists who did not engage in CPD.