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Pharmacy technicians allowed to supply drugs under PGDs from this month

Legislative amendments that permit pharmacy technicians to supply and administer prescription drugs under patient group directions will come into force on June 26, after being pushed through in a pre-election wash-up.

Pharmacy technicians across the UK, barring Northern Ireland, will be able to supply prescription-only medication (POM) using a patient group direction (PGD) from June 26, C+D has learned.

The reform is part of a set of legislative updates pushed through by the government before the dissolution of Parliament took place on May 30, ahead of the general election on July 4 that was announced just days before.

Pharmacy minister Dame Andrea Leadsom signed the amendments to the Human Medicines Regulations that give pharmacy technicians the new powers on May 29, after the House of Lords gave its consent on May 24.

Read more: UPDATED: Pharmacy technicians to supply medicines under PGDs

The amendments will come into force at a set date now that they have been approved by both houses - in this case, they will become law 28 days after Dame Andrea added her signature.

The amendments add pharmacy technicians to the list of healthcare professionals “who may supply and administer medicines” under a PGD.

 

Improved “job satisfaction”

 

According to the explanatory memorandum to the regulations, the changes will allow registered pharmacy technicians to “provide direct care to their patients, freeing up capacity in other parts of the healthcare system”.

They will also help “community pharmacy to provide more NHS clinical services”, it said.

“The job satisfaction of these professionals should also be improved by enabling them to work to the full scope of their practice,” it added.

Read more: Amazing news for pharmacy technicians or a disaster waiting to happen?

But it stressed that pharmacists “have overall responsibility for the dispensing of medicines that takes place in their pharmacy”.

Since the role of “pharmacy technician” is not yet a registered healthcare profession in Northern Ireland, the regulations will not take force in that country, it said.

 

Controversial reforms

 

In August, the Department of Health and Social Care (DH) announced the proposed amendments, launching a consultation on the reform.

And in March, the DH revealed the results of the consultation, saying that in addition to supplying medicines via PGDs, pharmacy technicians would “potentially” be able to administer vaccinations and provide consultations under Pharmacy First.

It revealed that the consultation “received overwhelming support” with 84% of respondents agreeing that pharmacy technicians “should be given new powers”.

Read more: PDA airs ‘role substitution’ fears amid pharmacy technician reforms

But it remained unclear when the changes would be rolled out – and the upcoming general election seemed set to disrupt or even halt the progress of the amendments altogether.

Meanwhile, the reform has proved divisive.

In March, Association of Pharmacy Technicians UK (APTUK) president Nicola Stockmann said that the changes were a “landmark moment” that recognised “the value of the pharmacy technician profession”.

Read more: Boots reveals plans for pharmacy technician ‘development programme’

But others – including MPs – raised concerns 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”.

The Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) also argued in March that allowing pharmacy technicians to use PGDs would leave patients “structurally exposed” and would "blur the distinction” between pharmacy technicians and pharmacists.

And in April, the pharmacy regulator revealed that it will consider whether new standards for trainee and registered pharmacy technicians are needed in the sector’s “changing landscape”.

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