C+D exclusively revealed on Wednesday (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, has suggested amending legislation to allow a “registered pharmacy professional” – such as a pharmacy technician – to supervise the sale and supply of pharmacy (P) medicines and POMs, according to confidential documents seen by C+D.
The group suggested that a pharmacy technician could, 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”.
PDA chair Mark Koziol said the trade body is “concerned” by the revelations in the documents. Despite being a member of a wider stakeholder group with ties to the DH’s programme board, the PDA was not aware of such proposals, he added.
“We can confirm that we have not been approached about this suggestion,” Mr Koziol said in a statement yesterday (September 14).
DH board “engagement process”
The PDA is a member of a 'partners forum', which was 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.
According to its terms of reference drafted at the time of the board's launch, the “engagement process the board has adopted will ensure the views of the public and patients, among others, are sought and considered effectively”.
However, Mr Koziol said there has not been a wider stakeholder group meeting “for several years”.
“The very fact that such proposals [on pharmacy supervision] could even have been drafted and were being discussed in private, without engagement from the wider profession, will have caused much concern among pharmacists,” he added.
The DH’s programme board “must increase transparency of its discussions in future, and make sure it listens to pharmacists working on the frontline”.
Pharmacy technicians' "important contribution"
The PDA said the “important contribution pharmacy technicians” make will clearly feature in any strategy for the future of the sector.
“However, [pharmacy technicians’] contribution must make pharmacists more accessible to the public…not less so, as is being advocated by the government's suggestion of remote supervision," it stressed.
“We know that a major reason why remote supervision isn’t already in place is because of widespread and consistent resistance to such proposals,” Mr Koziol added.
He called on any members who may be “concerned by this issue” to contact the PDA for support.