C+D exclusively revealed in September that detailed proposals for pharmacy technicians to be handed legal responsibility for supervising the supply of prescription-only medicines (POMs) had been submitted to a Department of Health and Social Care (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.
This highly-emotive subject prompted hundreds of comments from readers on the C+D website in September, and an eventual response from the DH, which stressed that it "will consult...a range of pharmacy stakeholders, including patients and the public" before amending current legislation on pharmacy supervision (see more of the sector reaction here).
“Back to square one”
According to Dorset contractor Mike Hewitson, Ken Jarrold, the chair of the programme board, told a meeting in London last week (February 22) that while suggestions to change pharmacy supervision legislation had been “on the table”, the board had “now gone back to square one”.
While Mr Jarrold chose not to comment on Mr Hewitson's version of events, Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) national officer Paul Day – who also attended the meeting – confirmed to C+D that pharmacy supervision suggestions “didn’t get the support from the whole board”, and the DH “will be rethinking the whole approach”.
Mr Hewitson – who is a National Pharmacy Association (NPA) and Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee board member – told C+D: “We all welcome the fact that [the programme board] has abandoned the previously unworkable proposals. It is a victory for the grassroots voices that came out so strongly against what the board was proposing.”
The meeting Mr Hewitson and the PDA attended was a gathering of a 'partners forum', set up alongside the DH’s programme board in 2013 to allow wider pharmacy stakeholders to “contribute” to the board’s work on “rebalancing” medicines legislation and pharmacy regulation.
In slides from the meeting, published on the programme board’s website on Friday (February 23), the board highlighted that “there are currently no firm proposals on changes to legislation regarding [pharmacy] supervision”.
Mr Jarrold told C+D afterwards that the latest meeting “provided the board with a range of views on the topic of supervision that we will carefully consider as we continue to engage with our partners”.
“Real progress is being made in implementing the board’s proposals – from the approval of new legislation for inadvertent dispensing orders in registered pharmacies to clarifying the roles of superintendent pharmacists and responsible pharmacists,” he added.
PDA: “Unacceptable” delay for stakeholder engagement
The PDA sent three representatives to the meeting – the first in “969 days”, it claimed – and repeated its call for both the PDA and the NPA to be represented on the programme board, Mr Day told C+D.
The “current frequency of partners forum meetings equates to three short meetings per decade, which is unacceptable”, he stressed.
“The PDA is certainly watching what the board does and says,” and will be holding the board to its statement that “nobody wants to reduce safeguards or reduce the distance between patient and pharmacist”, Mr Day added.
Well: Shaping the role of the responsible pharmacist
Also in attendance at the meeting was Lisa McCreesh, professional and regulatory standards manager at Well, who hopes to use the information discussed “to shape [Well’s] future thinking on the role of the superintendent and responsible pharmacist”, she told C+D.
“We want to make sure that any changes act as an enabler to pharmacists playing a wider part in the primary healthcare system,” she added.