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UPDATED: DH launches consultation for pharmacy technicians to use PGDs

The government has put forward proposals for pharmacy technicians in the UK to be allowed to supply medicines under patient group directions (PGDs).

The Department of Health and Social Care (DH) and the Department of Health (DoH) in Northern Ireland have launched a consultation today (August 18) on a proposal that would allow pharmacy technicians to supply and administration of medicines using PGDs.

Under the terms of the proposal, the Human Medicines Regulations 2012 would be amended to allow registered pharmacy technicians in England, Wales and Scotland “in any setting” to supply and administer medicines according to the instructions of a PGD.

Read more: Pharmacy technicians granted powers to deliver more clinical services

Northern Ireland does not recognise pharmacy technicians as a registered healthcare profession at present. However “once” the profession is recognised in the country, a further amendment to the regulations would be made, according to the proposal.

In June 2022, the Northern Irish government confirmed that it would press ahead with proposals to regulate the profession following responses that indicated “broad agreement” to a public consultation. It stated an ambition to start statutorily registering pharmacy technicians by 2025.

Read more: ‘Pivotal moment’: Pharmacy technicians set to deliver more clinical services

At present, 15 types of registered healthcare professionals, including pharmacists, are permitted to supply and administer medicines under a PGD. However, local organisations decide on how PGDs are to be used by healthcare professionals.

 

“Additional training”

 

According to the proposal, registered pharmacy technicians will need “additional training as defined in each PGD” in order to issue medicine under a specific PGD. They should be able to spot side effects and adverse reactions and understand potential risks of an interaction. 

Under the proposals, pharmacy technicians would be “professionally accountable” for the patients who are supplied or administered medicine using a PGD, and the patient’s safety in the process would also be their responsibility.

Read more: NHSE launches training scheme for 840 pharmacy technicians

The government’s new proposal offers a few examples of clinical practice scenarios in which pharmacy technicians might supply or administer medicines under a PGD, including vaccinations, oral contraception and emergency contraception.

However, there are “no current plans” to permit pharmacy technicians to use a PGD to supply or administer controlled drugs in any of the 5 schedules listed in the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001.

Read more: CPPE announces 60 fully-funded accuracy checking technician training places

The DH said its proposal “supports the ambitions” of the NHS to “maximise the use of the skill mix” across the pharmacy profession.

The impact assessment predicts that between 25% to 100% of pharmacy technicians would undergo the “voluntary training” to supply medicines under PGDs, and that pharmacy technicians’ employers would pay for their training.

The DH said that by February 2023, the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) had 25,191 pharmacy technicians on its register, with the “vast majority” of them working in community pharmacy.

 

How we got here

 

In September last year, Community Pharmacy England (CPE), then the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC), announced that the DH had committed to launching a public consultation on PGD use by pharmacy technicians.

This was announced alongside news that the service specifications for the national hypertension case-finding and smoking cessation services would be “amended to allow delivery by pharmacy technicians”.

In April, CPE announced that regulations had been amended to allow pharmacy technicians to perform blood pressure checks as part of the hypertension case-finding service and to deliver the smoking cessation service. 

Read more: Pharmacy technicians to become registered professionals in Northern Ireland

This year has seen more training for pharmacy technicians become available. Yesterday (August 17), NHS England (NHSE) announced the launch of a fully funded training programme for 840 pharmacy technicians that will drive them to “take on more responsibility” in dispensing medicines and delivering clinical services.

And on August 10, the Centre for Pharmacy Postgraduate Education (CPPE) announced 60 new NHSE-funded places on an accuracy checking pharmacy technician (ACPT) training programme.

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