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Calls to include pharmacy technicians in PGD to help fight COVID-19

To help combat COVID-19, pharmacy technicians are calling for inclusion on the government’s list of healthcare professionals who can supply and administer medicines under a PGD.

The Association of Pharmacy Technicians (APTUK) said giving pharmacy technicians patient group direction (PGD) status would allow them to be “an invaluable resource” in the immunisation process, once a vaccine for COVID-19 has been developed.

APTUK president Liz Fidler said the organisation believes “the introduction of the Coronavirus Act 2020 provides the opportunity to utilise the skills of pharmacy technicians to build…the number of healthcare workers able to support imminent mass vaccination programmes”.

Adding pharmacy technicians to the list ahead of a COVID-19 vaccine being available would “enable effective training to be undertaken and the correct governance procedures to be embedded”, Ms Fidler added.  

The list of healthcare professionals who can supply and administer medicines under a PGD is operated by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and includes pharmacists, but not pharmacy technicians.

Contribute to COVID-19 healthcare response 

APTUK has lobbied for pharmacy technicians to be added to the list since 2017. The reason for once again highlighting the issue now is to ensure pharmacy technicians are able to “contribute to supporting the healthcare response to COVID-19 and beyond”, Ms Fidler said. The association has presented its case for change to “key enabling organisations”, she added.

According to information from the Department of Health and Social Care, adding pharmacy technicians to the list of healthcare professionals who can supply or administer medicines to patients under a PGD would require an amendment to the Human Medicines Regulations 2012 act.

As the act applies across the UK as a whole while pharmacy technicians are regulated professionals only in England, Scotland and Wales – not in Northern Ireland – this presents a complication.

‘A now or never point’

Samantha Quaye, pharmacy business and performance manager at Barts Health NHS Trust in London, is a pharmacy technician who supports calls for the change.

Ms Quaye told C+D yesterday (June 11) that the change was needed now because “we are on the verge of a mass vaccination programme” and “the uptake of flu vaccines is also likely to increase this year because of COVID-19 and people wanting to prevent illness”.

“This is an overdue change in legislation and the Coronavirus Act is a now or never point. It would be a real game changer [for] public health and patient safety,” she said.  

“At the moment pharmacy is being asked to signpost back to primary care, but with the best will in the world, there is not the capacity within general practice to deliver the number of vaccines that are going to be required.

“Pharmacists are able to [give vaccinations], but they are of limited staff and are going to be the frontline people advising at the counter. So why not delegate the authority to pharmacy technicians?” she added.  

Current solutions are a “workaround” 

Ms Quaye, who works in secondary care, said there are some existing opportunities for pharmacy technicians to help with vaccinations by using a patient specific direction (PSD), but these are a “workaround” and “not the right way to do it”.

“Last year for the flu vaccination programme, we [Barts Health] introduced pharmacy technicians to the flu vaccinators group through a PSD,” she said.

“However, this involves a prescriber taking the responsibility of assessing people and putting them on a list of people for the pharmacy technician to be able to [help with vaccinations]. So that’s another reason why PGD status [would be useful],” Ms Quaye added.

What do you make of the proposal?

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