I’m extremely happy to see that NHS England is encouraging pharmacists and doctors to work together through its practice pharmacist pilot. But it left me wondering: why aren’t pharmacy technicians being used in the same way? After all, they are a valuable resource within the pharmacy environment.
However, this role hasn’t been developed as well as it could be due to resistance from some corners of the sector. Back in 2013, it was suggested that pharmacy technicians have access to certain patient group directions developed specifically to them. As I recall, there was quite a heated debate for and against. As a result of this controversy, community pharmacy technicians are in a strange limbo – waiting to see when their knowledge and skills will be used to their full potential.
For example, a few months back I wrote about how bulk prescribing (a prescription for anything over 28 days’ worth of medicine) is ultimately a death sentence for pharmacy as a business. This is particularly true for small local pharmacies – bulk prescribing could, in an extreme case, take them down from 6,000 items to 1,000 items over a six-month period.
This is where a pharmacy technician could come in. Writing prescriptions and dealing with the torrent of prescription enquires can be very time-consuming. There’s a reason why surgeries have whole teams of skilled people allocated to this task – and a pharmacy technician could be one of them. They could promote medicines optimisation by amending scripts to 28 days, organising repeat dispensing for qualifying medications and syncing medications so patients only have to collect them once a month.
How is this beneficial? To cut a long answer short, this actually saves the NHS a ton of money by reducing wastage. There’s a cost reduction for the pharmacy in terms of stock control and workloads for both pharmacy and surgery are cut. That’s a huge benefit.
There are a many additional things that could be done with the time and money saved. Off the top of my head, these could include reducing waiting times, running additional clinics, commissioning services, improving wages, introducing modern technologies, taking part in more training and making aesthetic improvements.
Together - by which I mean all of us, including technicians – we could make a much better environment for our patients and ourselves. We are greater together than the sum of our parts, and together we can progress to be even more exceptional.
This is but one example of how technicians could make a difference to the health service. Just as pharmacists don’t have to be shackled to a pharmacy, neither do pharmacy technicians.
Benjamin D’Montigny is a locum dispenser working in the south of England