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COVID-19: Hancock looks to widen scope of who can give vaccines

Hancock: “Pharmacists have got a massive role to play” in the delivery of a COVID-19 vaccine

The Government is developing a policy to expand the number of healthcare professionals who can give vaccines as part of its COVID-19 response.

Speaking to journalist Robert Peston earlier this week (July 15), health secretary Matt Hancock said he is “expanding who can legally vaccinate to make sure that [it is] not just GPs, but also technicians and nurses and pharmacists.”

The Department of Health and Social Care (DH) was unable to clarify whether Mr Hancock was referring to pharmacy technicians but told C+D yesterday (July 16) that the details of this policy are still being developed.

Mr Hancock added in his interview that “pharmacists have got a massive role to play” in the delivery of a COVID-19 vaccine once it is available.

The government will “use all the assets that we’ve got available” to ensure those with the “highest clinical need” get vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as a vaccine is found.

Healthcare workers are among those who will get early access to the vaccine, “because they are much more exposed than others”, Mr Hancock added.

Include pharmacy technicians

Pharmacy technicians are not on the list of health professionals who can supply or administer a medicine under patients group directions (PGD), which is operated by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency and includes pharmacists.

The Association of Pharmacy Technicians (APTUK) – which has been lobbying for pharmacy technicians to be added to the list since 2017 – told C+D yesterday that it hopes Mr Hancock was referring to the profession in his speech.

“Including pharmacy technicians on the PGD list will enable a range of services to be delivered in response to COVID-19 and beyond,” APTUK president Liz Fidler said.

“It will be a missed opportunity for pharmacy services and patient care if pharmacy technicians are not included. With relation to vaccinations, the time is now to enable accredited training and governance processes to be embedded for future immunisation campaigns,” she added.

Last month, APTUK said that pharmacy technicians would be an “invaluable resource” in the immunisation process once a COVID-19 vaccine is found.

Earlier this week (July 13), Mr Hancock told pharmacists at a virtual National Pharmacy Association (NPA) conference that pharmacies will play “an important role” in this year’s flu vaccination programme, which is expected to be the “biggest in history”.

“Community pharmacies will also have a crucial role to play in ensuring as many people as possible receive injections for any future COVID-19 vaccine,” an NPA spokesperson said.

13 Comments
Question: 
Do you think pharmacy technicians should be added to the PGD list?

mark straughton, Pharmaceutical Adviser

I don't have a problem whatsoever with pharmacy technicians delivering these vaccines assuming they under take training etc to ensure competence. The important point for me is the link to the responsible pharmacist. i.e. whether they can only provide this service at a location with an RP onsite and what responsibilities and liabilities the RP has.

I feel uneasy with the phrase 'in response to covid and beyond'. I'm very suspicious that this could becomes another way to squeeze out the pharmacist profession all together.

Not-So-Lucky Ex-Locum, Superintendent Pharmacist

I get the feeling you and me share very similar views on the long term direction of travel for the pharmacist profession. i.e. steeply downhill with a very big thump at the bottom.

I want to go back to my old university, find any old professor who is still alive (I've been qualified a long time and most of my professors were ancient and alcoholic even then) and say to them 'Job for life my big fat wobbly BACKSIDE!! ( I nearly put 'arse' there but then I realised it might be seen as a breach of our oh-so-strict and polite community guidelines, so I didn't)

Gerry Diamond, Primary care pharmacist

Healthcare assistants in GP practices do vit b12 and vaccines, so I think appropriately trained pharmacy technicians can do the same as well as PGSs too. They are untapped resource and an asset to the pharmacy team.

Leon The Apothecary, Student

I agree, speaking directly about IM injections, they are very simple to train someone how to do it, most first-year students learn how to do it in a day.

And PGDs are a very strict template to follow. Anything deviates from the PGD, then the medicine is not given and the patient is referred.

Not-So-Lucky Ex-Locum, Superintendent Pharmacist

They are. However, some would see this as an erosion of the pharmacist role as I did until I realised that actually, they would be taking some of the work and hence pressure off us. Good luck to them if this comes to pass (cos they're gonna need it!)

Leon The Apothecary, Student

I agree with you Lucky that the main complaint I have seen against expansions of roles like this is the erosion of whatever role is above aforementioned.

Accuracy Checking Technicans, Nurse Practitioners, Paramedic Practitioners - all have had the same argument against them, and they have all become invaluable tools!

Joan Richardson, Locum pharmacist

Let's hope that the legal responsibility is clearly defined.  Should pharmacy technicians be allowed to vaccinate then it has to be their responsibility if something goes wrong and should NOT fall back on the poor responsible pharmacist.  We still have a minefield regarding ACT's where the RP is held legally responsible if the ACT makes an error.  However I am not aware that there have been any fitness to practice hearings bought in these circumstances - someone may be able to enlighten me on this point.

Leon The Apothecary, Student

The main legal question that would arise from an ACT mistake is to conclude if there was negligent care of professional duty. You prove this isn't the case by evidencing the ACT's qualifications to prove that they are board-certified to conduct this task; CPD that shows continuously maintained skill and suitability; and SOPs that show that a standard practice has been established and vetted by several other professionals; as well as an insurance policy is in place.

As an RP, you would know that these are in place and therefore is reasonable to allow this individual to conduct this duty; you have fulfilled your responsibility as an RP. I think it would be extremely difficult to make a prosecution in this circumstance.

I had a look to see if I could find a legal case study where there was a successful prosecution, but I have not found anything yet.

Not-So-Lucky Ex-Locum, Superintendent Pharmacist

I think so long as the person is following sops, has training on file and are covered by insurance, you wouldn't be held responsible but these sort of things are always open to interpretation until they are tested in court. You'd have a pretty strong defence though.

Benie I, Locum pharmacist

Watch as the GPhC and RPS lie supine as techs take over pharmacy duties. Laughable.

Not-So-Lucky Ex-Locum, Superintendent Pharmacist

How long have you been qualified Benie, if you don't mind me asking? I'm 30 years, over and out!

Not-So-Lucky Ex-Locum, Superintendent Pharmacist

Why not? It isn't exactly difficult to do and if a tech is doing it, I'm not. Can't think of a single valid reason why a pharmacy technician shouldn't be doing vaccinations. HCAs at the GPs do them and some of those are barely out of nappies. Either way I don't care because I am out at the end of this year at the absolute latest so I won't be involved.

Leon The Apothecary, Student

Flu Vaccination training is not difficult by any stretch of the imagination. And an IM injection is one of the easiest to perform.

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