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UPDATED: Pharmacy technicians to supply medicines under PGDs

Pharmacy technicians will be able to supply medicines via PGDs and “potentially” administer vaccinations and provide consultations under Pharmacy First, the government has announced. 

“Pharmacy technicians will now be able to administer and supply specified medicines to certain groups of patients, without those patients having to see a prescriber,” the Department of Health and Social Care (DH) announced today (March 28).

It added that the “new powers” for pharmacy technicians “will potentially” include tasks like administering vaccinations and providing consultations under Pharmacy First.

The move will “free up pharmacists’…time, allowing them to deliver more patient-facing clinical services and improving access to primary care services for patients”, it said.

Read more: PDA: Pharmacy technician qualification levels ‘too low’ to handle PGDs

It revealed that the consultation launched in August on allowing pharmacy technicians to supply medicines under patient group directions (PGDs) “received overwhelming support” with 84% of respondents agreeing that pharmacy technicians “should be given new powers”.

It added that the change, which will affect “over 25,500 pharmacy technicians working in pharmacies” in the England, Scotland and Wales, “is part of the latest series of measures...to cut waiting lists and improve access to primary care”.

It remains unclear when the changes will be rolled out and when the government will decide whether pharmacy technicians will be able to administer vaccinations and provide consultations.

 

“A landmark moment”

 

Reacting to the news, pharmacy minister Dame Andrea Leadsom said that the government wants “to give patients faster, simpler and fairer access to the care they need, when they need it”.

“Giving these powers to pharmacy technicians...will do just that,” she added.

She said that the changes will ensure “our fantastic staff are recognised for the vital work that they do, working to their full scope of practice and delivering for everyone who walks through their doors”.

Association of Pharmacy Technicians UK (APTUK) president Nicola Stockmann added that the changes recognise “the value of the pharmacy technician profession”.

Read more: UPDATED: DH launches consultation for pharmacy technicians to use PGDs

She said that “this is a landmark moment for the expansion of access for patients to pharmacy services in a pressured healthcare landscape without compromising patient care”.

Meanwhile, president of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) Claire Anderson stressed that “it is essential that the accountability and professional responsibility of pharmacy technicians is clearly understood” when using PGDs.

She added that enabling pharmacy technicians to use PGDs “will enable the further evolution of the pharmacist’s role into more complex clinical care”.

 

“More than they're qualified to do”

 

It comes after Labour MP for Birmingham, Erdington, Paulette Hamilton raised concerns during a parliamentary pharmacy inquiry session this week that pharmacy technicians were being “pushed into the frontline of pharmacy clinical practice” and being primed to do “more than they're qualified to do”. 

Hamilton said she was worried that the government was “blurring the lines” between the professions, drawing an equivalence with the debate around physician’s associates (PAs) acting as a replacement for doctors.

Read more: GPhC pharmacy technician standards must ‘keep pace’ with changing role

But Leadsom rejected the suggestion that the government was “blurring” roles, saying that Hamilton was being “extremely unhelpful” and that expanding the role would “improve patient access and patient convenience while retaining patient safety”.

Hamilton sharply rebuked the minister, asking if the government was “listening to what our pharmacists are saying” and adding that she did not want the government to make the “same mistakes” as were made with doctors.

Earlier in the session, NHS England (NHSE) primary care director Dr Amanda Doyle, somewhat contradictorily, said that allowing pharmacies to make “better use” of pharmacy technicians would “free up” pharmacists for “clinical service delivery”.

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

And earlier this week (March 26), the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) published a letter to the pharmacy minister raising its concerns about permitting pharmacy technicians to dispense using PGDs.

In reference to the PGD consultation, the pharmacists’ union warned that the NHS is “rapidly developing new roles and services for pharmacy technicians that are way beyond their NVQ level 3 capability”.

Administering medicine using a PGD can be a “clinically challenging process”, the PDA said, adding that “patient safety is at stake”.

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

Previously, the PDA warned that allowing pharmacy technicians to use PGDs would leave patients “structurally exposed”.

And a report commissioned by the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) on pharmacy technician training and education last week found that the profession feels “well-prepared” to carry out its role, but that standards must remain “up-to-date” with any role changes.

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