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Private services steam ahead with pharmacy technician PGD use

A private services provider has updated its service specifications to allow pharmacy technicians to use patient group directions (PGDs) ahead of the June 26 law change, as NHS services look set to lag behind.

Pharmacy technicians will be “prepared and ready” to provide private pharmacy services under PGDs from June 26, Pharmadoctor chief executive Graham Thoms told C+D last week (June 6).

On June 5, C+D revealed that pharmacy technicians across the UK, barring Northern Ireland, will be able to supply prescription-only medication (POM) using PGDs when legislative amendments come into force on June 26.

But the following day, Community Pharmacy England (CPE) published a statement claiming that “there can be no immediate change in the provision of community pharmacy services” following the change to legislation.

Read more: Pharmacy technicians allowed to supply drugs under PGDs from this month

The sector negotiator said that “any updates to services first need to be considered in negotiations”, after which time PGDs would be “amended”.

CPE told C+D earlier this month that discussions on the next one-year deal “can continue” but said that a “formal agreement” will need to wait until the general election is concluded and a new cabinet is appointed.


“Ready to start”


But Thoms told C+D that Pharmadoctor is an independent medical agency that has “nothing to do with CPE” or NHS commissioned services.

He said that it has been prepared for the amended legislation “for some time”, including updates to its “registration process, training and resources, service management system, PGDs and eTool consultation software”.

From this week, pharmacy technicians can “register and purchase service packages” that will allow them to provide “up to 60+ private clinical services” through Pharmadoctor once the amended legislation becomes active on June 26, Thoms told C+D.

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

In an email sent to Pharmadoctor’s “partner pharmacists” last week and seen by C+D, the private services provider offered a number of recommendations to prepare their pharmacy technicians “so that they are ready to start providing services from June 26”.

These included:

  • Starting “in-house practical vaccination training” for pharmacy technicians
  • Giving pharmacy technicians time to read and get familiar with PGDs
  • Allowing pharmacy technicians to sit in on patient consultations
  • Showing pharmacy technicians how to use Pharmadoctor’s “functionality”
  • Getting pharmacy technicians familiar with the “full service flow”, including accessing pre-consultation records

C+D approached NHS England (NHSE) about updates to NHS pharmacy services, but it directed C+D’s questions to the Department of Health and Social Care (DH), which has not responded to requests for comment.


Multiples prepare


Meanwhile, the sector’s biggest chains are also preparing for the change.

Well Pharmacy's superintendent Ifti Khan told C+D this week (June 10) that its teams would “develop this opportunity once service specifications and PGDs are updated”.

Khan said that the multiple had “long recognised and advocated” for more involvement from pharmacy technicians in services.

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

The same day, Superdrug’s superintendent Niamh McMillan said that the multiple intends to use pharmacy technicians to “supply a number of services to patients in their local communities”.

“We are currently working on training and development plans to support the provision of these services,” McMillan added.

And Company Chemists’ Association (CCA) chief executive Malcolm Harrison said last week (June 7) that NHSE should “commission services ambitiously, with additional funding”.

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

Harrison said that the CCA had also “long campaigned” for legislative changes permitting pharmacy technicians to supply and administer drugs under PGDs and was “delighted this change has come through”.

Boots did not respond to C+D’s request for comment, but in April, it revealed that it has a working group looking at providing further “support” to pharmacy technicians including the possible launch of a “development programme”.

It said that it wants to “free up pharmacist capacity” by “working on the evolution of the capability” of the pharmacy support team.

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

Also in April, the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) announced that it would “assess” whether pharmacy technicians’ minimum training requirements are still “appropriate” given the profession’s growing scope of practice.

And in March, the pharmacy union raised “safety” concerns with MPs about allowing pharmacy technicians to supply medicines under PGDs, in supplementary evidence compiled for the health and social care committee’s (HSCC) pharmacy inquiry.

The trade union said that letting pharmacy technicians use PGDs like pharmacists would "blur the distinction between the two roles”.

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