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Did Hunt know about confidential pharmacy supervision proposals?

Exclusive
Hunt denied the government had brought forward any pharmacy supervision proposals
Hunt denied the government had brought forward any pharmacy supervision proposals

The Department of Health (DH) has failed to confirm whether Jeremy Hunt knew about pharmacy supervision proposals, a month after he tried to “reassure” a pharmacist.

C+D exclusively revealed last week (September 13) that detailed proposals for pharmacy technicians to be handed legal responsibility for supervising the supply of prescription-only medicines (POMs) have been submitted to a Department of Health (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 the 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 confidential documents seen by C+D.

Hunt's "reassurance"

The revelations come a month after C+D reported that health secretary Mr Hunt attempted to reassure a locum pharmacist about rumours that the government will allow pharmacy technicians to legally supervise pharmacies.

In a letter sent to the locum's local MP – Labour MP for Leeds Central Hilary Benn – Mr Hunt said “the government has not brought forward any proposals to allow pharmacy technicians to supervise pharmacies”.

You can read the full letter from Mr Hunt here.

DH’s response

Following its exclusive coverage last week, C+D asked the DH whether Mr Hunt was aware of the confidential proposals to allow pharmacy technicians to supervise medicines supply.

The DH did not give a direct response to this question, and instead said: "We want to make the best use of every member of staff's skills in pharmacies."

"Any changes made to who can dispense medicines would always be properly consulted on and would never compromise the safety of patients,” a DH spokesperson told C+D last Friday (September 15).

The spokesperson also did not confirm what the next steps for any changes to pharmacy supervision legislation would be, or if the health secretary plans to reassure pharmacists following the proposals coming to light.

No response from chief pharmaceutical officers

According to the documents, the working group behind the proposals is co-chaired by chief pharmaceutical officer for England Keith Ridge and chief pharmaceutical officer for Scotland Rose Marie Parr.

When approached for comment, both Dr Ridge’s and Ms Parr’s offices referred C+D to the DH for a response.

Last week, a number of organisations – who are represented on the working group – responded to the pharmacy supervision proposals. You can read the General Pharmaceutical Council's response here, and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society and Association of Pharmacy Technicians UK's response here.

16 Comments
Question: 
Are you concerned by the pharmacy supervision proposals?

A Long Serving Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

Jeremy Hunt took on the Junior doctors and lost. He's now taking on the Pharmacists and will undoubtably win as we are all too busy pulling ourselves down and competing with other pharmacists, whilst represented by some very weak organisations. Only the PDA have our best interests at heart and they are increasingly being uninvited to any discussions. The big companies have a vested interest in employing fewer pharmacists and are in collusion with the Government, NPA, GPhC, Pharmaceutical Society and all the the organisations who are supposed to look out for our interests. 

Pharmacist Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

I totally agree with all your points, unfortunately pharmacists are not united. I still cannot fathom why nobody is picking up and taking action against multiples who are using people in governing bodies to push their agendas!

Kevin Western, Community pharmacist

What amazes me about all this is that Hunt is a target for the media who have it in for him over the NHS, junior doctors, nurses etc and anything he does wrong gets dissected in minute detail generally..... it is a measure of the failure of our representatives and our perceived importance that this hasnt surfaced in  the mainstream media.

Pharmacist Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

Regardless of the whole situation, I would never trust a technician to be in charge.

Pharmacist Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

Why would anyone in their right mind believe any word or reassurance that comes out of Hunts mouth? He's a liar.

Stanley Grzesik,

"We want to make the best use of every member of staff's skills in pharmacies......by not having as many skilled staff."

Pharmacist Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

Thats their way of saying we are cutting costs

Former Cist, Pharmaceutical Adviser

Luckily I reached retirement age just as the ex-profession of community pharmacy was sadly waking up to the inevitable realisation that there is no future for the current model. I really don't mean to offend but think it through. If your role was to help facilitate a quality, cost-effective, evidence based NHS, what can the current community pharmacy system contribute? Sticking a label on the right box does not require a Masters degree. The "Ask your pharmacist" role has frankly disappeared. Home delivery by low paid part-timers has replaced the OTC professional interactions and practice pharmacists have captured the professional clinical pharmacy role. Add to this the irreparable damage to the community pharmacy reputation of the over-ordering of repeats on behalf of patients (a cash cow which has become systematic fraud) and the supply issues caused by rampant (but very lucrative) exporting and I ask the question, what can community pharmacy deliver that could not be provided by a single contractor in a city centre backed up by an Amazon type pharmacy delivery service? The future for community pharmacists is in practices. They won't earn as much and the opportunities to mint it as a contractor with a chain will be gone, and the multiples with their tier of non-qualified supervisors will be upset (shame!), but their pharmaceutical knowledge will be trusted, valued and appreciated. Simple cost-saving measures are mocked in community pharmacy but believe me CCGs and the NHS value them very highly. Independent clinical advice, patient medication reviews, med queries and once you are a prescriber (and this is now a must) you will take on a face to face responsibility with patients also, all of which is recognised by practices, CCGs, NHS and the Government. This improves quality, saves money, is cost-effective, supports the GP service and frankly offers a future for the largely demotivated community pharmacy workforce. Wake up to the sad fact that the world of healthcare has changed or at least that part provided by the NHS.

mark straughton, Pharmaceutical Adviser

Well done! Fantastic comment. Every word you say is depressingly correct.

Pharmacy and the perceived role of the community pharmacist is out dated and not fit for purpose anymore. Corporate interests and technology advancements means we're close to extinction.

The short term gains by certain contractors protecting their own interests and even lying to patients and GP surgeries to ensure they get certain scritps.

Backstabbing locums who will happily undercut another locum by a £1 an hour to ensure they get future bookings. Then there's lazy locums who command £30 per hour plus to do a shift- turn up late, on their phone constantly. All damage the credibility of the profession.

But overall the lack of leadership to bring together pharmacists from all areas and direct us to tackle the changing healthcare demands has really let us down.

We really are stuffed and there's still so many pharmacists ignorant to this!! 

Locum Pharmacist, Locum pharmacist

Employee pharmacists are no less. They offer appalling rates to locums not realising they're dragging down the value of their own profession. They too sometimes leave a mess for locums to deal with and fail to accept that locums may not accept certain practices in their pharmacies which may be the norm for regular staff but which the locum is uncomfortable supporting.

Pharmacists in general can be a little short sighted and fail to realise the long term implications of proposals such as these until they are actually implemented. 

Pharmacist Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

Well said. To be fair, as community pharmacists we have been very lazy and have not wanted to improve much. We complain when funding is taken away but we dont provide anything other than a 'stick label on box' service.

Boom Shakalaka, Locum pharmacist

What an appalling comment!

Meera Sharma, Community pharmacist

Tobe fair - this is the like the banking crisis. Pharmacists were promised great things with the new contract. Unfortunately, some organisations and individuals have made a mockery of the whole thing and guess who's paying the price - pharmacists at grass-root level! It will take a long time to undo the damage that has been done & worse still, who do you think will get affected if the traditional role of the pharmacist in the community begins to fade - patients. But that's not the DoH's problem is it - just blame the pharmacists. Absolutely sickening display of back-stabbing by the pharmacy organisations!

locum norfolk, Locum pharmacist

i know times are bad when i have pressure for work up here. As a profession it kind of feels like we have been shafted. It doesnt seem like there is much of a future in this game and i'm not stating that lightly as i've been working for five years, young family and no career prospects. exciting times ahead then...

Stephen Walsh, Community pharmacist

Is "Reassure" another word for lied to?

Locum Pharmacist, Locum pharmacist

Yep..DoH use it often

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