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.
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.
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.