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What role could pharmacy technicians play in primary care networks?

Graham Stretch: Without investment in pharmacy technicians we can't make PCNs "whole"
Graham Stretch: Without investment in pharmacy technicians we can't make PCNs "whole"

With discussions to recruit pharmacy technicians to certain primary care networks (PCNs) reportedly underway, C+D asks the experts what role they could play

It is “only a matter of time” before pharmacy technicians are recruited to PCNs – groups of local GP practices covering an average of 50,000 people – delegates at the Association of Pharmacy Technicians UK (APTUK) annual conference in Birmingham heard last month.

PCNs went live across England on July 1, yet when asked by speakers at the event, the majority of pharmacy technicians in attendance were unaware of what these networks are.

First announced as part of the NHS long-term plan, there are now around 1,300 PCNs, which are “responsible for delivering joined-up health and social care services through multiprofessional teams to patients in the community”, according to NHS England.

PCNs are tasked with delivering seven “national service specifications” that were laid out in the GP contract:

  1. Structured medication reviews and optimisation
  2. Enhanced health in care homes
  3. Long-term conditions
  4. Personalised care
  5. Supporting early cancer diagnosis
  6. Cardiovascular disease prevention and diagnosis
  7. Tackling neighbourhood inequality.

C+D has already analysed what opportunities lie in PCNs for community pharmacy, but what role could pharmacy technicians play specifically?

“Complex care”

Speaking to APTUK conference delegates, Wasim Baqir, NHS England national pharmacy lead for care homes, said: “If you look at the list [of service specifications] this is you; this is your bread and butter.”

As part of PCNs, pharmacy technicians could be responsible for “a range of complex, clinical and technical activities that have a positive impact on residents’ health and wellbeing and support care homes”, Mr Baqir said.

Beyond that, pharmacy technicians “would be advocates of medicine optimisation and safety, and embed principles of shared decision-making”, according to a slide he presented at the conference.

“Missing a trick”

Brentworth PCN co-clinical director Graham Stretch said that very few PCNs are advertising for a pharmacy technician role at this stage. “We are missing a trick, and the trick is in this room”, he told delegates during his keynote address at the conference.

“If I don’t have technicians on my team, I am going to spend a lot of time doing tasks that technicians are better at, instead of doing jobs that I am trained to be doing.”

Speaking to C+D after his session, Mr Stretch said that although there’s a real commitment for pharmacists to join PCNs, “without investment in pharmacy technicians, I don't think we can make the thing whole”.

His vision for how pharmacy technicians should be involved in a PCN is based around “joint working”.

“The patients are shared between the different settings anyway, so we should do the same thing with staff,” he said. For instance, a pharmacy technician could work part-time for a PCN and spend the rest of their time working for a GP practice or a hospital.

“There are technicians doing blood tests, electrocardiograms, sorting out health checks, foot checks, blood monitoring, visiting care homes, sorting our systems. And we just aren't using them to their full capacity,” he told C+D.

Funding the roles nationally would also help community pharmacies, he suggested. Employers would know that their pharmacy technicians, who will be working across PCNs and community pharmacies, would be able to access paid-for training.

This would help make staff “happier”, Mr Stretch said. “I will obviously try and advocate for a system that I know works, is cost-effective, adds capacity, safety and advancement for all pharmacy staff.”

You can search for the latest pharmacy technician vacancies on the C+D Jobs website.

Do you think pharmacy technicians should be included in PCNs?

Leon The Apothecary, Student

I believe there is a huge amount of untapped potential within the Pharmacy Technician in both the supporting role to a pharmacist and evolving their own place in the healthcare ecosystem.

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