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‘As a technician, I don’t want to run a pharmacy without a pharmacist’

"The supply function in pharmacy could be managed or overseen by a technician"

The Pharmacy Technician explains why remote supervision would be unfair for both patients and pharmacists

As an accuracy checking technician (ACT), I have always felt that if I made an error, this is something I am responsible for. Once a pharmacist has clinically checked a prescription, it should not be a legal burden to the pharmacist if the ACT makes a mistake.

How can someone be responsible for something they had nothing to do with? I have never understood why it is the pharmacist’s responsibility if an ACT makes an error.

I have worked with pharmacists who refuse to work with ACTs (I would like to add that they are a minority), which is their right and which I understand to a degree, but then they will complain that they have to do the work that I would have done.

I personally think that the supply function in pharmacy could be managed or overseen by a technician. Overseeing procedures, processes, admin, and the daily running of a pharmacy – with the bonus of an ACT checking the bulk of the workload – enables the pharmacist to concentrate on services, spend time with patients, and deal with clinical queries. Maybe we could take a leaf out of hospital pharmacy’s book in this case?

However, I don’t want to manage a pharmacy without a pharmacist being present. I don’t like the idea of remote supervision. I don’t think it is fair on patients or pharmacists. Remote supervision in emergencies – bad weather conditions, for example – is exactly that; an emergency. It should not be something that we see as the ‘norm’.

How would a pharmacist know what is going on in another branch and be completely responsible for it? I’m all for looking at new ways of working to provide an effective service and to improve our working lives, I just don’t see how this would be appropriate. Call me old fashioned, but I think a pharmacy should always contain a pharmacist.

Technicians are here to support teams, provide accurate advice to patients, and to revive pharmacy as a whole. So, I think a lot of people in community pharmacy need to start embracing the skill mix in the team. If they don’t, nothing will ever change.

The Pharmacy Technician locums in community pharmacy

9 Comments

Z Z, Pharmacy Asistant/ Medicine Counter Assistant

"I personally think that the supply function in pharmacy could be managed or overseen by a technician. Overseeing procedures, processes, admin, and the daily running of a pharmacy – with the bonus of an ACT checking the bulk of the workload – enables the pharmacist to concentrate on services, spend time with patients, and deal with clinical queries. Maybe we could take a leaf out of hospital pharmacy’s book in this case? "

To a large multiple this screams, yes we can run a pharmacy without a pharmacist. 

Leon The Apothecary, Student

So you would suggest that clarification is all-important? I agree. The standard routine work should be automated and maintained by suitably capable staff.

Richard MacLeavy, Non Pharmacist Branch Manager

If you look at any community pharmacy in the UK you will see the same problem. A pharmacist spending all their time checking basket after basket. The workload increases every year and with no extra checking capacity the pharmacist gets even more bogged down, scripts take longer to get to shelf, patients get angry that their prescriptions aren't ready etc etc. But is the solution to this legislative change? The reality is that we can fix this problem under todays legislation and provide a much better service for patients and increase productivity too. All we need to do is invest in having the right skill mix in the pharmacy and ensure staff fulfill their capabilities. Every pharmacy of reasonable items volume should have an ACT and large pharmacies should have 2 or more. They should manage the dispensing process, assist the pharmacist in supervising the rest of the team, Acuracy check the prescriptions and be accountable for the operational aspects of the pharmacy. This then frees the pharmacist to properly oversee the whole operation of the pharmacy (which currently in my view isn't possible due to the checking workload), take more of an active role in the primary care adgenda and have time to have meaningfull interactions with patients to support compliance, medicines optomisation and support lifestyle changes in patients to improve health outcomes. We do not need legislation change to achieve this, we just need pharmacy owners to invest in staff development, to ensure we have enough ACT's Dispensers and counter assistants with suffient capability to fulfill their role. However in my experiance pharmacies (particularly the multiples) are very reluctant to invest in staff training especially to fund technicians, and only use them to pick up the additional checking that the pharmacist can't manage thereby not actually freeing the pharmacist at all or allowing the techinician to fullfill their capability by becomeing accountable for the dispensing process as the pharmacist is still fulfilling this aspect. 

Leon The Apothecary, Student

Heck, you can have DC nowadays for a low cost, if you have someone capable in your shop, why not get them on the spot the difference dispensing assistant accuracy checking course?

Lucky Ex-Boots Slave, Primary care pharmacist

the NHS doesn't care. They only care about getting the same job done with less money. I forsee they will just push through ACT supervision eventually with all the blacklashes. 

And to answer your question why are pharmacist responsible when ACT makes an error, it's because pharmacist is the one overseeing all operations going on and has the ultimate accountability for everything. He/she is not directly responsbile for what's gone wrong but he/she will be accountable for it. 

Richard Binns, Primary care pharmacist

The NHS dosent care or is that the Government that dosent care?

I think lots of indivduals in the NHS feel sympathy for community pharmacy as they are being treated in a very similar manner.

Ben Merriman, Community pharmacist

Would you mind telling your representative body this, please?

Benie I, Locum pharmacist

It won't make a blind bit of difference. Does your representaive body listen to your problems? haha.

Lucky Ex-Boots Slave, Primary care pharmacist

The real question is: do we even have a representative body to start with? This profession is so pathetic that we don't even have a union to voice for us!

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