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‘Pharmacy teams need enhanced clinical roles’

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The Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) has republished a three-year-old report which underscores the vital role of community pharmacists and pharmacy technicians in a ‘modern NHS’ amid speculations that the government is set to announce plans to enhance the role of community pharmacy teams.

PDA’s 2019 report which “took three year to compile” highlighted significant empirical evidence and made recommendations to develop the roles of both community pharmacists and pharmacy technicians, and the skill mix required to meet patients’ needs.

It examined in detail the role of pharmacy technicians in community pharmacy.

The PDA still that pressure on the NHS can be managed much more effectively through the better use of pharmacists and pharmacy technicians. In the community pharmacy setting, it is evident that if the further development of the pharmacist’s role is to be facilitated and pharmacists are to become more patient facing in the future, an extended role and greater responsibility for pharmacy technicians is not only desirable, but ultimately it is essential.

The pharmacy minister in England, Maria Caulfield MP was recently quoted as saying the Westminster government was “…looking at developing the role of community pharmacy teams, because it is not just the pharmacist who has clinical knowledge and skills. We are working in a number of areas to upskill the whole community pharmacy team so that they can deliver more and use their skills in a better way.”

In anticipation of such announcements, the PDA reiterated that it is essential, when skill mix is being considered, that patient safety standards be maintained.

Pharmacy technicians are a vitally important group of practitioners in the modern NHS; however their roles and responsibilities must not be confused with those of pharmacists. The public must never be confused or misled into thinking that they are dealing with a pharmacist, when they are actually dealing with a pharmacy technician.

The Technicians report covers many considerations including comparisons to the role of technicians in other areas of healthcare and internationally.  The report explains the difference between a technician and a professional role.

One significant concern raised in the report was that 73 per cent of those on the register of pharmacy technicians (as at April, 2017) had been admitted onto the register through ‘grandparenting’ arrangements, and the GPhC held no records of any assessments having been conducted as to the suitability of the qualifications which were relied upon during the grandparenting process. Though this figure has since reduced to 53 per cent (at 31 March 2022) of registrant technicians, the above still applies for the majority of the Technician workforce.

Overall, the report recommended and described a way forward which could be embraced, to:

  • Unify pharmacists and pharmacy technicians behind a common vision and purpose, based on shared interests and mutual benefit.
  • Develop more rewarding, fulfilling roles for both groups, including enhanced clinical roles, which make more appropriate use of their respective skills.
  • Establish a symbiotic, complementary and effective skill mix model in community pharmacy.
  • Create rewarding career frameworks, supported by skills and salary escalators and appropriate remuneration.
  • Enhance patient care and safety, improve governance and regulation, develop the UK healthcare infrastructure and reduce the burden both on community pharmacy and other areas of the NHS such as GP surgeries and secondary care.

The PDA hopes that any decisions about future skill mix and the roles of pharmacists and technicians will have considered the factors covered in the report and will have considered how the above points can be delivered.

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