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RPS and APTUK respond to confidential pharmacy supervision proposals

RPS: We would expect a single pharmacist to have responsibility for a single pharmacy
RPS: We would expect a single pharmacist to have responsibility for a single pharmacy

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) does "not want to see pharmacies run without pharmacists", it has said in response to proposals for pharmacy technicians to oversee prescription-only medicines supply.

C+D exclusively revealed yesterday (September 13) that detailed proposals for pharmacy technicians to be handed legal responsibility for supervising the supply of prescription-only medicines (POM) 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”.

Both the RPS and the Association of Pharmacy Technicians UK (APTUK) are represented on the working group responsible for producing the proposals, according to the documents.

However, the RPS told C+D today (September 14) that the society's four national boards "have not had any proposals brought to them around running pharmacies without pharmacists".

APTUK president Tess Fenn told C+D this morning that the association "continues to engage in evolving discussions" around pharmacy supervision as a member of the DH programme board, but no "strategies" have been agreed yet.

Read both organisation's responses to the proposals in full below:

RPS: “We do not want to see pharmacies run without pharmacists”

“The RPS has made it very clear that access to a pharmacist and their ability to provide clinical assurance for safety in community pharmacies is absolutely essential. We do not want to see pharmacies run without pharmacists. We would expect a single pharmacist to have responsibility for a single pharmacy as they do now.

“We want to see greater investment and job security for pharmacists in community pharmacy, enabling them to build their services for patients and the public. We will continue to support pharmacy teams and enable them to optimise access to pharmacy services for patients.

“We will continue to champion this at the [DH programme board] and across government.”

Tess Fenn: “We continue to engage in evolving discussions”

“As a member of the [DH programme board], APTUK continues to engage in evolving discussions, considering possibilities that could fully utilise competent registered pharmacy professionals – both pharmacists and pharmacy technicians – for the benefit of patients, through the safe delivery of pharmacy services.

“The work of the board is ongoing, and as such, no strategies have been agreed.

“APTUK reassures its members and all pharmacy technicians that when there are fixed proposals, it will fully engage and consult with the pharmacy technician profession, seeking all views from across the sectors.”

Read more about the specific medicines supply scenarios the programme board envisaged pharmacy technicians overseeing here.

What do you make of the supervision proposals?

I don't understand why technicians are being verbally attacked on here and with some shocking accusations. My colleagues and I are not asking for this change to take place and indeed we hold the pharmacist and their role in our pharmacies dear. Indeed the business is Pharmacy and a Pharmacist is the lead role and we don't question that. We as technicians offer valuable support and experience to our pharmacists, and this is not an us or them - it's a team effort to keep our pharmacies going. Not just pharmacists and not just technicians and dispensers.

Freelance Chemist, Pre-reg Pharmacist

Be in no doubt that the APTUK want this to go through and it will I have been told by my sources (in high places).


Ilove Pharmacy, Non Pharmacist Branch Manager

Money given to RPS is as good as down the toilet. I'm not aware of anyone who's been a member for years. You'd have to be a fool.

Susan M Shepherd, Community pharmacist

Do technicians really want to take on the professional liabilty as well as the responsibility for the dispensing of prescripitions? To be the one standing up in court? Are their wages sufficient to pay for professional liability insurance?

Would the public be more likely to sue after an error if they felt that they hadn't had the pharmacist input into their presciption that they felt going to a pharmacy implied?

Maybe we should be looking at enabling the registered technician to carry out the flu jabs and some of the other services, instead of continuing to add them solely to the pharmacist to perform. So the prescriptions need not pile up whilst the pharmacist is administering flu jabs, as he/she will coninue to be available to dispense and check prescriptions, supervise medicine sales and advise the public.Surely a better use of everyboy's skills.

Locum Pharmacist, Locum pharmacist

Agree. As pharmacists our role is to advise patients regarding their medication. Flu jabs can be delegated.

Locum Pharmacist, Locum pharmacist

When APTUK thought their role would be handed to dispensing assistants:

'APTUK told the Department of Health (DH) it is concerned that “the pharmacy technician role may be replaced with a dispensing assistant to reduce staffing budgets”, the association’s president Tess Fenn said.'

'This “deskilling” of pharmacy teams might result in “a detrimental impact on patient safety and workplace pressure”, she warned.'

Now when the role of a pharmacist is being handed to techs: 'possibilities that could fully utilise competent registered pharmacy professionals – both pharmacists and pharmacy technicians – for the benefit of patients, through the safe delivery of pharmacy services'

So no impact on patient safety? Not a blatant attempt to cut costs? Hypocrite much?

Jonny Johal, Pharmacy Area manager/ Operations Manager

Fellow pharmacists, I urge you all to resign from the RPS, once we done that their high horse self professed professional authority will dissipate into the wind. Please, I urge you to act now. 

Locum Pharmacist, Locum pharmacist

I think it is better to stay and pressurise the current leadership into resigning on account of the shoddy work they are doing representing pharmacists. It would be great if there was an alternative professional body consisting wholly of pharmacists though so there are no secret agendas as with the RPS.

Jonny Johal, Pharmacy Area manager/ Operations Manager

... I see, the Jeremy Corbyn excuse (i.e. in order to reform the EU, you have to be in it)! Do you really want to be in the same 'professional body' with the 'pharmacy technician profession' (Tess Fenn's words)?

You may have no choice with the GPhC, but the RPS is a voluntary organisation. It is time to make a stand. Stop training technicians for a start.

Locum Pharmacist, Locum pharmacist

I do agree with what you have said. The RPS representing pharmacists and techs is a massive conflict of interest and unacceptable. The fact that we pharmacists are paying them to run our profession into the ground is also laughable.

I would much rather be a part of the NPA but I believe only independent pharmacies can join? Any info guys?

Locum Pharmacist, Locum pharmacist

My mistake they don't represent techs. I was just a little confused as they seem to do the work of APTUK for them. 

Chris ., Community pharmacist

The problem is technicians train technicians and sign each other off. I have seen dispensers using a technician/workmates workbook as, shall we say 'inspiration'?, and then getting said workmate to sign them off! This has happened on 4-5 ocassions. This is wrong on all levels and once a public consultation goes live, my god we will fight!

Locum Pharmacist, Locum pharmacist

Didn't the GPhC hold a consultation this year (yes another one) regarding whether tech training should be fast tracked? Seems everyone has been trying to push their personal agenda

Jonny Johal, Pharmacy Area manager/ Operations Manager

Julie, Chris, the relationship in question here is between the contractors, GPhC and the training organisation. The GPhC and contractors want to tell the public that suitably trained staff work in their pharmacies, and training organisations are therefore set up to deliver just that - for a fee! They are not interested in filtering out the incompetent, they just want to make the optics right. Win, win and win. They don't want to know about our experiences, in fact, for the 'testing regime' that some of these companies come up with, they are so leaky that I'm sure the GPhC would not adopt for the pre-reg exams! For example, in one particular test/exam for MCA, I was told by the training company that there are three versions and the trainee doesn't know which he/she will be given, notwithstanding the fact that by putting all the MCAs in that pharmacy together, between them they know and have copies of all the questions and answers. I refuse to accept that neither the GPhC, the training company and the contractors (who are paying for these courses) haven't thought of that.

On another occassion, the pharmacy I locumed in had some spare exam papers left by staff who no longer work there. The trainees there could just fill in one of those exam papers and return it to the training company without even opening the envolop that was meant for him/her! I alerted the training company to that possibility once (spoke to their director) and asked for a re-test, my concerns were dismissed out of hand and my request denied, management was informed with identical response (in fact, I was also told to 'celebrate success'!).

Julie Friday, Accuracy checking technician

I actually know a company that cheated 6 Dispensers through a dispensers top up course which gave them the qualification to register as a Pharmacy Technician of which they all did. Senior managment were made fully aware of this but just ignored it. I was no longer prepared to work with them so i left. Over the years a couple have left the profession,a couple went to work for other pharmacies and a couple are still working in the same branch. I know that 3 of them went on to become ACT's how dishonest and irresponsible of the people concerned,the company and the Pharmacist that carried it out of which i know is still register.

Jonny Johal, Pharmacy Area manager/ Operations Manager

I have once seen three MCAs sending off identical set of answers (with identical mistakes), to my surprise, they all passed with different marks. Since, that company has now gained RPS and GPhC accreditation.

Kevin Western, Community pharmacist

It isnt going to happen in my lifetime, given how long it has taken to not get de-criminalisation through... and I wonder if anyone has mentioned that little gem to the technicians aching to be in charge...

Anyone interested in training techs anymore?

Trudi Ward, Accuracy checking technician

I would suggest most technicians on minimum wage aren't "aching to be in charge"

Meera Sharma, Community pharmacist

Another useless statement which answeres no questions and does not clarify anything - good PR stance - NOT!

Locum Pharmacist, Locum pharmacist

If techs wants to take up a pharmacists role then they should apply to a MPharm course and qualify as actual pharmacists. Trying to do so via underhand proposals in collaboration with idiotic pharmacists that do not represent all of us leaves a bad taste. These proposals are clearly not in pharmacists best interests and will prove to be another cost cutting measure from the DoH. The RPS and APTUK representatives suggesting it will enhance the role of pharmacists are either delusional, liars or both.

Tien On, Community pharmacist

Cloak and dagger; divide and conquer. So many attempts to create market forces or legislate pharmacists out of existence: remote supervision , proliferation of pharmacy colleges, open borders for EU practioners without rigorous quality controls, now inviting techs to the crown of thorns dressed as a carrot- the burden of supervision and all the flaming glory of a spitfire pilot.

Locum Pharmacist, Locum pharmacist

No comments on the cloak and dagger approach?? How can we trust that the RPS are working in our best interests when they support and help develop proposals that will detrimentally affect pharmacists? 

Richard MacLeavy, Non Pharmacist Branch Manager

I think its hard to know whats be envisioned here. I could see 2 potential outcomes. It could be the case that the proposals being worked on are to replace pharmacists with pharmacy technicians. Speaking as a non pharmacist and someone who is working toward becoming a registered technician, I don't just think this proposal would be devastating for pharmacists but technicians as well. The only reason for proposing this would be to save on pharmacist cost, and I don't think any technician has the aspiration to become a cheaper replacement for a pharmacist. Indeed this view is as demeaning to the technician as it is to the pharmacist. Should that be the case I think all pharmacy staff as well as the general public would be resolute in their opposition. However it could be that whats being proposed is an upskilling of the technician to allow them to better support pharmacists and patients. Right now the pharmacist I work with is totally snowed under by requests for flu jabs. We have whole families arrive at the pharmacy all wanting to have their jab and she can be in the consultation room for long periods at a time. During this time other patients are walking in with prescriptions and when the pharmacist has finished in the consultation room she then has a bunch of scripts to check for a number of increasingly impatient customers. It is during times like this that I have often thought why don't we allow technicians to use their clinical skills to determine if the script requires a pharmacists clinical check or not. You may have Mrs smith waiting for her paracetamol prescription that she gets as and when required or Mr Jones waiting for his Qvar inhaler, his only medication. These sorts of routine senarios could be handled by technicians allowing the pharmacist the time to spend with patients. Of course should a complication or interaction arise the technician could make the decision to refer and explain to the patient it needs to be viewed by the pharmacist after the consultation. Allowing the technician to develop in this way enhances the technicians job role whilst also freeing the pharmacist from routine clinical checks particular for repeat medication. Theres been much talk on future pharmacy services commissioning and its hard to imagine how pharmacists would be able to fit in any more without some form of supervision support. If this was what is being considered I would see this as a positive move for the sector as it develops both the role of pharmacists and technicians. What we really need to transparency on the proposals and the purpose.

Locum Pharmacist, Locum pharmacist

That is one perspective but my view is why should there only be one pharmacist in the situation described above? Having two on site would allow for collaboration between the pharmacists and provide patients with greater access to a pharmacist. After all GP surgeries usually have more than one GP according to the workload so why not pharmacies? In my opinion this proposal is blurring the lines between a pharmacist and a pharmacy technician and pharmacists should take a stand for themselves. Other health professionals such as GPs, nurses, dentists and midwives would not accept something like this being imposed on them and would not let it get this far where it is being viewed as a viable possibility.

Jonny Johal, Pharmacy Area manager/ Operations Manager

The RPSGB and RPS first sold their souls to the money god by enocuraging technicians to give them their hard earned money called 'registration fees', and now they want us to believe they are on the side of pharmacists! There is a bit of the 'Nick Clegg' feel to this. Technicians did register in droves because they think higher status would ensue by hanging onto pharmacists' coat tails. That is enitrely understandable.

Now, we have Tess Fenn using terms like "pharmacy technician profession" notwithstanding the fact that 'technicians' of all sorts, even ACTs are at this moment of time a non-essential (perhaps useful) species in retail pharmacy outlets, as I said before I have successfully managed pharmacies in the past that were devoid of that species. No doubt, she wants to recommend a change of the status quo so they can climb the social ladder.

This working group called 'rebalancing board' is supposed to look at Pharmacy legislation and regulation, now they want to change the pharmacists' role, and even managed to have technician members to contribute to the discussions - why? It is analogous to the Airline Pilots Association consulting with refueling technicians on cockpit flight procedures.

Maria Ovenden, Community pharmacist

I agree totally, pharmacists are being asked to give as many flu jabs in a day as possible, but this is in addition to their normal heavy workload! There should be two pharmacists so that the pharmacy can carry on being run efficiently and without any patient safety issues. When flu clinics are held at  surgeries that is all the nurse does, he/she does not have to worry about patients waiting to be seen, prescriptions needing checking, homes or community trays to be checked, a patient needing help in the phone. Once again pharmacists are being put under great pressure for profit and patient safety is very low on the list of priorities.

fatnose pansies, Sales

Vague statements like the RPS does "not want to see pharmacies run without pharmacists" are not helpful at this point. The RPS needs to be clear and honest or I fear it's going to start losing A LOT of members. Do you want at least one pharmacist to be physically present in every pharmacy throughout it's operating hours?

OR are you advocating remote supervision, where a pharmacist will not be physically present and a pharmacy technician WILL be supervising the pharmacy - because they will be the only one present supervising medicines supply?

Also if you're saying the boards "have not had any proposals brought to them around running pharmacies without pharmacists" - does that mean that the boards DID have the proposals brought to them about pharmacy technicians supervising medicines supply? Is that what you're saying? If so, it means a lot more people knew about this. If not, why didn't you consult the boards? Since these are elected people, you need to be open about it now that this has come out.

Locum Pharmacist, Locum pharmacist

Exactly! They have not denied being involved in such proposals and that in itself is damning. A professional body that is not transparent with its members or the profession it represents when it comes to such crucial matters cannot be trusted to represent us.

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