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Pharmacy technicians in NI could become fully regulated from 2025

The Department of Health (DoH) in Northern Ireland has launched a consultation on proposals to regulate pharmacy technicians as a new healthcare profession, bringing the country in line with the rest of the UK.

Pharmacy technicians in Northern Ireland are currently not regulated healthcare professionals, unlike their counterparts in Great Britain, who have been regulated by the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) since 2011, the DoH explained in a consultation document launched yesterday (March 21).

Health minister Robin Swann explained that statutory regulation “will help to ensure that the pharmacy workforce has the necessary capability and capacity to fully support the transformation of our health service in the coming years”.

To register as a pharmacy technician in the country, proposals suggest applicants must have completed qualification(s) as set out by the Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland (PSNI) and a minimum of two years’ work-based experience in the UK as defined by the regulator.

“The possible routes to this qualification and the registration process will be consulted on separately”, as will “more detailed proposed changes to legislation”, the DoH said.

Once these steps have been taken, “it is envisaged that the statutory registration of pharmacy technicians will commence in 2025”, the DoH explained.

 

“Long-standing issue”

 

“The non-regulated status of pharmacy technicians in Northern Ireland is a long-standing issue that has been attracting growing interest among stakeholders in recent years, particularly given the pressures on the pharmacy workforce over the course of the pandemic,” according to the consultation document.

“There are now substantial reasons for this matter to be addressed.”

According to a 2020 estimate published in the Pharmacy Workforce Review – Pharmacy Technician Report, there were approximately 400 pharmacy technicians working in community pharmacy across Northern Ireland, with a further 507 posts across the health and social care trusts.

Despite some efforts in recent years to enhance pharmacy technicians’ training to help in the development of clinical services, the technician role “remains inconsistent… particularly in community settings, and their potential contribution to the delivery of pharmacy services is not fully realised”.

The 2020 Pharmacy Workforce Review identified that Northern Ireland faces a shortfall of more than 1,000 pharmacy workers over the next four years. It was projected that 566 pharmacists and 600 pharmacy technicians will be needed across community pharmacy, general practice, and the hospital sector by 2024.

It is believed that statutory regulation will help develop a career pathway for pharmacy technicians, increasing their career prospects, which in turn is “expected to lead to improved retention of pharmacy technicians, particularly in the community sector”, the DoH added.

The consultation closes on May 16

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