Technicians follow 'clinical pharmacists' into GP practices

Pharmacy technician Termeh Goudarznia works at two GP surgeries in west London
Pharmacy technician Termeh Goudarznia works at two GP surgeries in west London
Following the success of NHS England's 'clinical pharmacist' programme, pharmacy technicians are being employed in GP surgeries in west London.

The pilot scheme is intended to make the processing of documents through GP systems “safer and more efficient”, Dave Sellers, project manager at Hammersmith and Fulham GP Federation, told C+D yesterday (April 19).

The idea of using pharmacy technicians “flowed from the success” of pharmacists working in GP practices as part of NHS England's national programme, Mr Sellers said.

These technicians are the first recipients of all patient documentation received by their GP practices – "sometimes over 700 documents are processed by a practice per week".

"We believe there is scope for a number of GP practices to share back-office functions and increase efficiency," Mr Sellers said.

"[Technicians'] clinical skills and experience give them a much better understanding of the issues involved and the necessary actions to take," he added.

The pilot – one of "a number of initiatives being developed aimed at relieving pressure on GPs” – started in February, with one pharmacy technician working in one practice, Mr Sellers explained. A second practice was added in March.

“Next week [the GP federation] will employ the second pharmacy technician in the team and the project will be extended to a third practice,” he said.

“We think there are a number of roles for pharmacy technicians within general practice, including helping with the prescribing process, dealing with hospital discharge and more patient-facing roles,” Mr Sellers told C+D.

He predicted that within 18 months, a good proportion of the GP practices in Fulham and Hammersmith will have a pharmacy technician.

GP reaction

The reaction of the GPs in the two practices served by the project is “really encouraging”, Mr Sellers said.

“GPs acknowledge the safety aspects of the model, where a clinician reads all documents within two days of receipt,” he added. “Anything urgent can be picked up and passed to the duty doctor for action.”

In some cases, GP practices are redesigning the doctors’ day to include more patient contact, Mr Sellers said.

For more information about the pilot scheme, or to apply for a position, contact dave.sellers@nhs.net

What’s it like to be a pharmacy technician working in a GP practice?

Termeh Goudarznia was working four days a week as a pharmacy technician in a community pharmacy when she applied to work in a GP practice.

After a meeting with Mr Sellers, she found the concept of the project "interesting", she told C+D. “I could see some of the [same] challenges we had in pharmacy regarding discharge letters.”

It has been a “great learning process” and has been going “better than expected”.

Ms Goudarznia’s day involves checking documents that have been processed by the admin team in the early morning.

“I act upon them appropriately – either send them to a GP for action, or call the patient to see if they are ok or if they need medicine.”

Ms Goudarznia said having pharmacy technicians in GP surgeries means the doctor’s “valuable time” is spent seeing patients, rather than reading documents.

“Processing documents are safer this way,” she added.

25 Comments
Question: 
Should NHS England fund pharmacy technicians to work in GP practices?

Helen Pinney, Pharmacy technician

Pharmacy technicians in general practice can find support in our Telegram group: https://tinyurl.com/PCPATech

Helen Pinney, Pharmacy technician

Can I just clarify that technicians are not being used as cheap pharmacists, at least in my three years experience as a technician in general practice, now covering twelve surgeries. The roles are different - both are needed, or either/or, depending on the practice. There are responsibilities that pharmacists can take on which technicians can't (and vice versa).

Perhaps some further education is needed into what it is a pharmacy technician does in general practice, as I tend to find that pharmacists who are threatened by techs fall into one of two categories: they either don't know what it is a technician does (in this case, in a surgery), or they lack confidence in their own competence.

Samantha Lloyd, Accuracy checking technician

Wow, having worked as a Pharmacy Technician in fields such as Community, Rural GP surgery, 10 years in NHS Hospital Pharmacy as a Medicines Management and Accurracy Checking Tech and now back to Community - I'm a little saddened by the small minded opinions of hopefully a minority of Pharmacists who perhaps lack the benefit and experience of  working with a team of allied healthcare professionals who have learnt to share their pharmaceutical workloads and are interested in advancing Pharmacy and improving on Patient Safety! 

Chris Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

Sure we know, Reletrans instead of Butrans, Rewisca instead of Pregablin... we have our overflowing dispensary drawers and clogged up CD cupboards to remind us...now, perhaps I should do some CPD on the role of a practice based tech, actually no need I'm just crap at my job.

Helen Pinney, Pharmacy technician

Oh boy! No, that's not my job. It's interesting how you jump on the defensive though.

I would be happy to explain my role to you at some point to put your mind at ease. Practice techs are here to help - GPs, community pharmacies and of course (most importantly) patients.

Unity is what is needed right now in our profession, not infighting between sectors.

La Dakinio, Community pharmacist

In my area us practice pharmacists are crying out for pharmacist techs to come in and help. They can do a huge amount of work that compliments what we do already as pharmacists. I think it's a great route for the profession to take

Chris Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

''...I would be happy to explain my role to you at some point to put your mind at ease...''

 

Ok Helen...go ahead, my mind needs putting at ease...

Helen Pinney, Pharmacy technician

If you're serious please get in touch and we'll organise to meet up!

Stephen Eggleston, Community pharmacist

I would be interested to know what qualifications are required. Or is this a role which has no clinical element?

Valentine Trodd, Community pharmacist

Sounds like they are taking over from the GP receptionists - and given some of the ones I've dealt with over the years, any basic level of cognitive ability would be an improvement.

Valentine Trodd, Community pharmacist

That'll be the end of 'clinical' pharmacists earning decent money in GP surgeries then... who's going to pay a pharmacist 40k when you can get two techs for the same money? Yet another nail in the coffin!

Helen Pinney, Pharmacy technician

A pharmacist and a technician's role complement each other, but are quite different. Nobody's toes are stepped on if you get the skill mix right.

Valentine Trodd, Community pharmacist

I do realise that Helen, but currently the DoH is footing (on a sliding scale) the wage bill. I think in a few years time when the funding for pharmacists in GP surgeries dries up and the practices have to pay out of their own pot, the situation may change significantly. In an ideal world we'd all love a tech/ACT but what percentage of community pharmacies employ one?

Helen Pinney, Pharmacy technician

You say that, but only three out of our twelve surgeries receive money as part of the NHSE pilot. One of the three, as the funding dropped, decided to increase the pharmacist hours from 20 to 40 hours per week. Pharmacy teams will be a routine part of GP practices within 5 years.

Andy Burrells, Pre-reg Pharmacist

Without wanting to offend any techs here, we're seeing techs as the new pharms and dispensers as the new techs.
It's a gradual underqualification (and thus, underpayment) of the work force and it will impact the patient in the short term but us in the medium and long term.

Chris Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

Also happens in medicine, nurse/pharmacist prescribers replacing GPs. Education, classroom assistants replacing teachers and in the police force, PCSOs replacing police officers...simply a case of either companies/governement doing things on the cheap to save money.

Gursaran Matharu, Community pharmacist

What are the unintended consequences of this migration into GP surgeries? Mini hospitals? With waiting lists and no choice for patients? No innovation for patient service delivery. Surgeries scaling up to save costs and then no high street pharmacies, which have 1.8 million visits a day.

We need a diverse network of GP surgeries and community pharmacies to give patients choice and be the driver for innovation.

There are already many barriers for community pharmacy in the NHS infrastructure for effective commissioning. NHSE needs to engage with the sector urgently.

Ben Merriman, Community pharmacist

So... are these clinical technicians?

Lucas Perez, Student

Haha...clowns....why would you employ a pharmacist when a tech is 1/4 price.....SHOW ME THE MAHONEY

Syd Bashford, Community pharmacist

If you a tech, I'll employ you at £5/hr no probs ;-)

Uma Patel, Community pharmacist

Nice one

You spend years traing them and then they scoot off to the GP

Helen Pinney, Pharmacy technician

Not if their working conditions are good :-)

Lucas Perez, Student

I could do with a Pharm technician....someone to make the tea 

GREGORY TUCKER, Administration & Support

Mr Perez, may i let you know that your negative childish comments, towards technicians, are the very reason a lot of community pharmacies are struggaling to recruit. Drop the arrogance, and you might just make it to  your pre-reg.

 

Bal Singh, Locum pharmacist

Mr. Gregory, just to let you know, the reason we find it hard to employ a technician, is due to funding cuts. You might be keenly aware, they were reported to be 12% but have ended up at about 20%.

 

Job of the week

Locums
From Heathrow to Southampton
Competitive locum rates