The National Pharmacy Association (NPA) has renewed its criticism of government plans allowing pharmacy technicians to supervise the supply of prescription-only medicines and called on ministers to scrap the proposals.

The independent pharmacy organisation launched its latest attack on the plans, uncovered in leaked documents last year, following research that claimed 270 million drug errors are being made annually by GPs, pharmacists, hospitals and care homes, mistakes that had potentially caused more than 23,000 deaths.

Responding to the research, Tess Fenn, president of the Association of Pharmacy Technicians UK (APTUK) said: “Patient safety is paramount and is at the heart of APTUK and the pharmacy profession. Pharmacy technicians as part of the pharmacy team have a vital role to play in preventing medication errors, through intervention and safe practice.

“Our role contributes to minimising the risk to patients every day across all care settings and sectors of the profession. APTUK are committed to enhancing patient safety culture through promoting quality systems in all of the services provided to patients.”

The plans to allow technicians to oversee the supply of medicines were pushed forward by a group chaired by chief pharmaceutical officer Keith Ridge and his Scottish counterpart Rose Marie Parr. However, their emergence last year caused anger within the pharmacy profession.

Royal Pharmaceutical Society president Ash Soni said that where there are medicines there must be a pharmacist present while a letter from a group called Pharmacists In Pharmacy and signed by over 600 pharmacists insisted technicians supervising pharmacies when a pharmacist is not present “simply cannot be allowed to happen.”

NPA chairman Ian Strachan at the time labelled the plans “irresponsible” and as the government continues to draw up the proposals, the NPA was on the front foot again.

“Community pharmacists are the last line of defence against medication errors, dispensing more than a billion prescription items each year and clinically checking each one,” an NPA spokesman said.

“They use their professional judgement and expertise to query about 6.6 million of those items, helping avoid many incidents that might otherwise have resulted in serious harm.

“Pharmacy technicians are a valued part of any pharmacy team but it’s hard to see how removing medicines experts from the supply process can improve patient safety. Such proposals must be ruled out.”

The Department of Health and Social Care released a report on Friday detailing recommendations on reducing medicines-related harm to patients.