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Lawyer: DH ‘biting off more than it can chew’ on pharmacy supervision

David Reissner: Making changes to regulations can be complicated and time-consuming
David Reissner: Making changes to regulations can be complicated and time-consuming

The Department of Health (DH) could be “biting off more than it can chew” if it decides to change pharmacy supervision legislation, a leading healthcare lawyer has warned.

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

In order for this to happen, a working group established by the UK’s four chief pharmaceutical officers has suggested amending the wording of regulation 220 of the Human Medicines Regulations 2012 so that references to “pharmacist supervision” of a pharmacy are replaced with a broader requirement for a “registered pharmacy professional” to supervise a pharmacy.

Responding to the revelations, David Reissner, senior healthcare partner at law firm Charles Russell Speechlys, said while "in theory it is easier to change" the Human Medicines Regulations 2012 than the Medicines Act 1968 – where the requirement for pharmacies to be supervised was contained until 2012 – “experience suggests that even making changes to regulations can be complicated and time-consuming”.

If the DH’s intention is to replace the wording in these regulations, “then a definition of ‘registered pharmacy professional’ will have to be created”, and “even a definition of ‘supervision’ – something that legislators have avoided doing” so far, Mr Reissner told C+D earlier this month (October 13).

But if the DH instead decides to amend legislation to allow pharmacy technicians to supervise “some” transactions – such as repeat prescriptions and the sale of “family packs of analgesics” – “complicated drafting may be required”, he said.

“The DH might find that anything more than a simple change to allow all pharmacy technicians to supervise all transactions…would involve biting off more than it can chew,” Mr Reissner added.

It could also "bring a different law into play – the law of unintended consequences”.

Proposals must be considered publically

While the conversations around supervision changes have so far remained “secret”, “changes to the law cannot be made without the proposals being considered in the public arena through proper consultation”, Mr Reissner said.

“Quite apart from publishing the proposals and inviting comments from pharmacy representatives, the DH [programme board] would also have to seek comments in particular from patient representatives and bodies concerned with patient safety,” he stressed.

Last month, the DH said that only after a public consultation has been held “will proposals be submitted to ministers for consideration”.

Catch up on all of C+D's supervision coverage here.

Are you concerned by the pharmacy supervision proposals?

James Harbottle, Community pharmacist

Whilst the PDA are trying to secure bargaining rights for Pharmacists the DoH (+friends, you know who I mean) are pushing for remote/tech supervision. Does Mr Hunt really want another powerful union to contend with along side Nurses/ Doctors? Of course not. Does S.P want Pharmacists to have bargaining rights? Of course not. American business views this as tantamount to communism. (note American history, Pinkertons vs Unions). Point being that scurrying along with the supervision changes will protect the business from any industrial action in the event (heaven forbid) that Pharmacists are granted bargaining rights. After all the, pharmacy could continue running basic dispensing/ sales (with little negative PR) therefore nullifying any leverage that we have.

Tim B, Locum pharmacist

The government is only prepared to pay peanuts and so will only have monkeys doing the job. This has been on the cards for years. Pharmacists are to become obsolete along with the knowledge they possess. The crucial difference between a pharmacist and a pharmacy technician is that the latter know WHAT to do , whilst the former understands and knows WHY it has to be done. When asked a penetrating question on therapeutics and the likes a pharmacy technician does not have the training or knowledge to answer.

Jonny Johal, Pharmacy Area manager/ Operations Manager

Legally complicated, it may be, but the impetus for the big multiples to save money is in my view irresistible. Don't forget, i. the multiples (through registration fees) are the de facto paymasters of the GPhC, ii. the RPS's interest is to enlarge it's membership and ensure its financial future, if that means the acquisition of the APTUK (in commercial equivalent terms) and stuff the pharmacists, they will do it, iii. DoH can see the potential of futher cutting our professional fees (that includes MURs, NMS, MAS etc etc in the future when 'suitably trained' technicians can do them) if dispensing and other professional activities are moving from a graduate service to one that is provided by non-graduates.

Therefore the will is clear and present, a way will be found.

To save ourselves, fellow pharmacists, please recognise the duplicitous behaviour of the RPS, the only way to stop them is to deny the RPS of credibility and the right to represent us - resign en masse. Don't give the RPS the chance to stab us in the back again, leave the RPS to play with the NVQ techncians.

Gerry Diamond, Primary care pharmacist

Well however you want to dress up 'supervision' and 'registered pharmacy professional' it's curtains for community pharmacists. A shame as pharmacist who do this job well are being let down badly ......

Ronald Trump, Pharmaceutical Adviser

David Reissner: 'Making changes to regulations can be complicated and time-consuming'. - Thanks for that Captain Obvious.

Seriously Grace,  do you get paid for advertsing this bloke on your website?! How about getting some views from other people in the interests of fairness and unbiasedness?



Gerry Diamond, Primary care pharmacist

David Reissner is what the press would term a regular columnist specialising in pharmacy law , so I don't agree that he is being advertised. he gives good advice. thanks

M Yang, Community pharmacist

Perhaps pointing out he obvious is necessary in this case. The government clearly haven't thought through anything properly in the past 5 years, whether it's the NHS, trade deals or withdrawal from the EU. Is it a case of being incredibly short sighted and stupid, or just forcing through legislation and hope no one will say a word?

Ari Butt, Community pharmacist

This has got be the biggest threat to the profession in my 29 years  as a consultant Pharmacist ! There is no room for any complacency and ALL pharmacists must now work together to oppose this  “ remote supervision “ proposal! 

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