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Supervision reform proposals could pose ‘risk to patient safety', DH admits

The government has said that proposed changes to supervision rules “could increase the number of errors made”.

Last week (December 7), the Department of Health and Social Care (DH) launched a consultation proposing a change to supervision rules that would allow a pharmacist to "authorise pharmacy technicians to run a dispensary with reference to a pharmacist only where necessary".

But the DH admitted in an “impact assessment” published alongside the consultation that the proposed changes pose a “potential risk to patient safety”.

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

It said that “the reduced pharmacist supervision could increase the number of errors made”.

Elsewhere in the document, the government added that the changes “may” create “impacts on safety”, but that it believes these risks are “extremely low”.


Risk “mitigated”


The DH highlighted that any risk “is mitigated by the fact that a pharmacy technician is a registered and regulated healthcare professional in their own right”.

It said that “in addition” to pharmacy technicians having “education and training to undertake dispensing of medicines”, the pharmacist retains “overall responsibility for the pharmacy premises”.

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

The government stressed that it is proposing a “transition period before [the] legislation commences” to ensure “regulatory rules and standards and professional guidance” are in place.

It said that the transition period would “ensure good governance safely supports the implementation” of the new rules.


Additional costs


The document also set out the estimated “monetised costs” of putting the proposals into action.

It said that predicted training costs of £2.1 million are “to be realised by the pharmacies choosing to utilise their pharmacy technicians to supervise the dispensing process”.

Read more: GPhC publicly apologises after ‘pharmacist technician’ gaffe

And it estimated a costs of £1m for “pharmacists to take time to understand the change in regulations”.

There is also a “cost for pharmacies to review and update pharmacy procedures and protocols to ensure safe and effective delivery of pharmaceutical services when dispensing is delegated to a pharmacy technician”, it added.


Mixed response


Meanwhile, pharmacy bodies have broadly welcomed the proposed changes.

Last week, Community Pharmacy England’s (CPE) legal director Gordon Hockey said that it is “important to ensure that pharmacies can make best use of the skill mix across the whole team”.

National Pharmacy Association (NPA) chair Nick Kaye added that regulatory “modernisation” is “well overdue”, but stressed that changes should “improve, not diminish, the public’s access to a pharmacist”.

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

Individual pharmacists, however, were “conflicted” about the proposals, with one voicing doubts that pharmacy technicians would “be paid much more” despite the additional burden of responsibility.

And GP Dr Steve Taylor said that the supervision changes looked to him like a “safety vs cost issue” .

It comes as the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) last week apologised after “mistakenly” referring to the title of pharmacy technician as “pharmacist technician” in a recent council paper. 

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