25 Jan 2024

Have your say: Open consultation on pharmacy supervision

The Department of Health and Social Care consultation closes at 11:59pm on 29 February – make sure you have shared your views.

It is very unlikely that you will have managed to miss the discussions about supervision in pharmacy recently, but you would be forgiven for not following every detail. You would also be forgiven for wondering what the consultation has to do with you if you don’t work in community pharmacy. Below I have attempted to summarise some of the key facts for you in a quick read article – there is a lot more information and opinion available online to ensure you respond to the consultation fully informed of all the nuances. 

What is the consultation about? 

The consultation lays out three proposals, to amend both the Medicines Act 1968 and The Human Medicines Regulations 2012. The three proposals are: 

  • Proposal 1 is about introducing authorisation of a pharmacy technician by a pharmacist. In short, under this proposal, the preparation, assembly, dispensing, sale and supply of medicines could be done by, or under the supervision of, a pharmacy technician with the authorisation of a pharmacist. 

  • Proposal 2 centres on the handing out of pre-checked and bagged medicines to patients in the absence of a pharmacist. It would allow pharmacists to authorise any member of the team to hand out dispensed prescriptions that have been checked for clinical appropriateness and accuracy. Note, the law already allows the wider pharmacy team to give a delivery driver medicines for delivery, or place medicines in an automated locker for collection. 

  • Finally, proposal 3 covers supervision by pharmacy technicians at hospital aseptic facilities. Under this proposal, pharmacy technicians would be permitted to supervise the preparation, assembly and dispensing of medicines in hospital aseptic facilities. Under this proposal, the pharmacy service must still be overseen by a chief pharmacist. 

Why now? 

In their foreword to the consultation, the four chief pharmaceutical officers of the UK allude to the desire to maximise the contribution pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and wider team members can make to addressing the challenges faced by the NHS. This has been a regular topic at CPC in recent years – with the consensus being that effectively using the skills of the whole pharmacy team will not only enable pharmacist time to be more focused on patient-facing clinical services and maximise the impact of the whole team on NHS priorities, but also improve job satisfaction and career progression for all members of the team. 

As Clare Steele, President of the Association of Pharmacy Technicians UK (APTUK) notes:  

‘Pharmacy technicians are skilled and experienced in the sale and supply of medicines and are ideally placed to support the evolution of pharmacy practice and the wider healthcare system to optimise pharmaceutical care for patients and the public, working alongside our pharmacist colleagues and the wider pharmacy team. 

The proposed changes would support the recognition of the pharmacy technician profession as key to ensuring pharmacy services meet the challenges of the future.’ 

Making better use of the skill mix of teams is addressed in a variety of documents across Great Britain – including England’s NHS Long Term Workplace Plan, the Scottish government’s workforce strategy and Pharmacy: Delivering a Healthier Wales. It is worth noting that, unless specified, the proposals only apply to Great Britain, as pharmacy technicians are not currently a regulated profession in Northern Ireland. The proposals, however, do support the commitment to develop and regulate the pharmacy technician workforce. 

What does this have to do with my place of work? 

While most discussions focus on the proposals for community pharmacy, a new parallel exemption to the section 10 exemption of the Medicines Act 1968 would provide for pharmacy technicians – who are registered and regulated healthcare professionals in Great Britain - to take primary responsibility for preparation and assembly of medicinal products in hospital aseptic facilities. Again, the primary focus of this is outlined as being to free up time for pharmacists to spend more time with patients. 

It is worth noting that GP practice dispensaries are outside the scope of the consultation, as the dispensing of medicines is done under the authority of a doctor, not a pharmacist. 

With the consultation closing at the end of February, make sure you read up on the proposals and what they would mean for you before submitting your responses. 

Respond online to the survey.