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DH board to ‘reflect’ on transparency of supervision proposals

Pharmacy Show
Four DH programme board members spoke at the Pharmacy Show session

The board that oversaw controversial pharmacy supervision proposals will “genuinely have to reflect” on the backlash to the plans at its next meeting, a board member has said.

In answer to C+D’s question at the Pharmacy Show on Sunday (October 8), Andrew Evans, chief pharmaceutical officer for Wales, said it was his “personal view” that the board “got the balance slightly wrong” when it came to making information available to the public.

He recognised that supervision is a “difficult subject” and it is a “challenge” to strike the right balance between remaining open and transparent, and encouraging “free and frank discussion” across the sector.

“I think there is an inherent difficulty talking about [it] behind closed doors,” Mr Evans said. “It gives the appearance that you’re talking about, or agreeing something, that you wouldn’t want others to find out about.”

“No doubt we’ll pick it up again at the [next programme board meeting at the] end of October,” he told the audience.

“I would expect the board perhaps to be a little more forthcoming and open to debate around these subjects, like we are today,” Mr Evans added.

Last month, C+D exclusively published detailed proposals for pharmacy technicians to be handed legal responsibility for supervising the supply of prescription-only medicines (POMs), which had been submitted to the DH programme board.

A working group, established by the UK’s four chief pharmaceutical officers, also suggested amending legislation to allow a pharmacy technician to, in a pharmacist’s absence, undertake the “supervision role” of determining when medicine supplies can go ahead and “overseeing the activities of other, non-regulated, pharmacy staff”, according to the confidential documents seen by C+D.

No formal proposals

Mr Evans was one of four programme board members speaking at the Pharmacy Show session, including Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) president Ash Soni, and Tess Fenn, president of the Association of Pharmacy Technicians UK (APTUK).

Mr Soni said he had received “very unpleasant…personal attacks” on social media since the supervision proposals came to light, which he said were “unprofessional and shouldn’t happen”.

“I understand the emotive nature of this debate – that is in some ways why I have chosen not to do anything about it thus far,” he told delegates.

The discussions around supervision are no more than “straw man” plans, and there are “no current proposals on what [pharmacy supervision] will look like”, he said.

Mr Soni reiterated his position: “Wherever there is a medicine, there must be a pharmacist.”

“There is no question about pharmacists not being in pharmacies,” he stressed.

Ms Fenn said research conducted by the APTUK and the University of East Anglia last year showed that “88% of pharmacy technicians were extremely willing and wanting to extend their role and the level of their training”.

Ms Fenn claimed there were more than 23,000 pharmacy technicians on the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) register.

“That is a significant workforce that we can use,” she stressed.

Catch up on the tweets from the Pharmacy Show with C+D's Storify.

What do you make of the supervision proposals?

Meera Sharma, Community pharmacist

I think the word "reflect" should be changed to "try and work with the pharmacy profession for future changes". I don't think any pharmacist would disagree that changes need to happen within the profession so that it can survive, but work with the pharmacists not behind closed doors with opinions from a few. Try speaking to the pharmacists who are at grassroots level and their daily bread & butter is impacted by changes. Healthy debate is a pre-requisite to any change so a balanced view can be achieved to inform decision-making.

Chemical Mistry, Information Technology

Soni the snowflake?

Jonny Johal, Pharmacy Area manager/ Operations Manager

The best way to deal with this is for pharmacists to stop employing technicians.  Since they are not legally required to be present in a pharmacy, my inclination is to use cheaper labour. I can see pharmacists stoking up trouble for themselves by employing technicians, not least because they will be asking for more money if their role enlarges.

As for Ms Fenn, what would you expect her to say? There are 23,000 technicians on the GPhC's register, my view is pharmacies should restructure and manage these people out of their businesses.

Fellow pharmacists, it is not too late to act.


Ghengis Pharm, Locum pharmacist

I think it's a sad position to take but under the circumstances I absolutely concur!  I was in business once.

Sham Kiani, Community pharmacist

95% of Pharmacists in a recent poll of 554 Pharmacists believe that the proposals to allow technicians to supervise the sale and supply of Poms and P meds would result in patient harm. 


Ghengis Pharm, Locum pharmacist

"Reflect" ?  We're doomed aren't we.

Rubicon Mango, Academic pharmacist

Ms Fenn said research conducted by the APTUK and the University of East Anglia last year showed that “88% of pharmacy technicians were extremely willing and wanting to extend their role and the level of their training”.

As an academic myself, stats can be skewed either way to get your point across. Considering there is a GP crisis and healthcare crisis, I doubt very much the public would want reduced accessibility to a degree-educated healthcare professional. Isn't that what its all about, the patients? Is that only when it suits your agenda? 

As for personal attacks, uncalled for yes, but when you threaten the hard work and careers many Pharmacists have studied and developed for, then you threaten livelihoods, in that case, professionalism goes out the window and it becomes a personal agenda. If you intend to wear big boy trousers for big boy discussions, you have to put up with the big boy consequences unfortunately. 


C A, Community pharmacist

It also depends on how the question is asked - "Would you like further training to expand your role?", or "Would you like to expand your role in the future?" are both very broad and different from "Would you like to expand your role to include being responsible for the provision of POMs in the absence of a pharmacist?"

Leon The Apothecary, Student

Kept broad for further additions down the line? Can't imagine that going down well. 

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