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Supervision proposals: ‘The greatest pharmacy evolution in 70 years’

Pharmacy organisations have welcomed the proposed changes to pharmacy supervision law, although grassroots pharmacists were “conflicted” about the proposals.

Yesterday (December 7), the Department of Health and Social Care (DH) launched a 12-week consultation on its plans to allow a pharmacist to "authorise pharmacy technicians to run a dispensary with reference to a pharmacist only where necessary".

Community Pharmacy England’s (CPE) legal director Gordon Hockey said that the industry negotiator welcomed the consultation.

Mr Hockey said that it is “important to ensure that pharmacies can make best use of the skill mix across the whole team” with the coming start of the Pharmacy First service, adding that CPE would “consider the proposals” and submit a response.

Read more: UPDATED: DH launches long-awaited pharmacy supervision consultation

The National Pharmacy Association (NPA) said that it “commended” the government “for grasping the nettle on this complicated issue after years of prevarication”.

It added that the DH’s acknowledgement that “the physical presence of a pharmacist within a pharmacy” was a “critical safeguard” reflects the NPA’s “longstanding position” and said that the organisation would work with members to draft a response to the consultation.

NPA chair Nick Kaye added that regulatory “modernisation” is “well overdue”, noting that checked and bagged prescriptions should be allowed to be handed out by a delegated member of staff without a pharmacist present.

“Any changes to legislation or regulations should maintain or improve, not diminish, the public’s access to a pharmacist,” said Mr Kaye. He added that the NPA would “check for any unintended consequences” as it scrutinises the consultation document.

 

“The greatest evolution for 70 years”

 

Malcolm Harrison, chief executive of the Company Chemists’ Association (CCA), also welcomed the consultation, calling the proposals “the basis for the greatest evolution in pharmacy practice for 70 years”.

Mr Harrison said that the proposals “will free up” time for pharmacists to deliver NHS services, also noting the benefit that bagged and checked medicines could be handed over without a pharmacist if the reforms go ahead.

But he warned that updates to the supervision framework would not “halt the alarming rise in pharmacy closures” and called for a “funding model” that would “maintain” the community pharmacy network.

Read more: Supervision of individual transactions ‘no longer’ needed, cross-sector group finds

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) said that it too welcomed the “long-anticipated” consultation announcement.

It said that its previously published policy position statement “outlines the principles” that lawmakers should follow to legislate “progressive and safe pharmacy services”.

Read more: The (supervision) elephant is still in the room

The RPS said that its members could “share their insights and perspectives” with the society as part of its effort to respond to the consultation, adding that the RPS was “committed to advancing the pharmacy profession” and playing a “constructive role in the ongoing dialogue” on supervision.

The Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) told C+D that it would issue its comment on the consultation “next week”.

 

“Good for big chains”

 

On X, formerly Twitter, the announcement provoked a range of reactions.

Brendon Jiang, vice chair of the RPS’s English Pharmacy Board, said that he hoped the legislation “provides practical solutions to making the most” of a pharmacy team’s skills.

And Andrew Davies, the retired former NHS England (NHSE) director of hospital pharmacy, called the consultation announcement on changes to community pharmacy’s “archaic and inappropriate” supervision rules “excellent”.

He said that it was “about time” that community pharmacies were “allowed to benefit” from the services of pharmacy technicians to the extent that hospital pharmacies can.

Read more: Make supervision law ‘less inflexible’, says Wales’s chief pharmacist

But locum pharmacist Tohidul Islam said that he doubted that pharmacy technicians would “be paid much more” despite the additional burden of responsibility that they would be asked to bear under the proposals.

And pharmacist Robin Conibere said that he was “conflicted”. He noted that the profession is going through a “huge change” and that there is a “need to free up” pharmacists’ time.

However, he said he was concerned that the reforms would be “used by some to cut costs”.

Read more: Pharmacy supervision: The DH seems committed to changing the law; we must set the terms

He was responding to a post by GP Dr Steve Taylor, who said that the supervision changes looked to him like a “safety vs cost issue” .

He said that he thought the proposals looked “good for big chains”, adding that “pharmacists need to be supported”.

The long-awaited consultation comes after calls from sectors leaders to make supervision law “less inflexible” and allow pharmacy technicians to safely hand out the “majority of medicines”.

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