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Community pharmacy

Technicians are seeking powers that would threaten patient safety, claims PDA

The Pharmacists’ Defence Association has concerns about technicians performing certain tasks without a pharmacist present.

The Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA), chaired by Mark Koziol (pictured), has concerns about technicians performing certain tasks without a pharmacist present

The Pharmacists’ Defence Association, chaired by Mark Koziol (pictured), is asking its members what they think about technicians taking on roles traditionally performed by a pharmacist

A row is brewing between pharmacists and pharmacy technicians about the potential tasks technicians can perform unsupervised when the pharmacist is away from the workplace.

According to the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA), technicians want to be able to make the final accuracy check on dispensed items, hand out dispensed prescriptions and sell pharmacy (P) medicines when the pharmacist is away from the pharmacy.

The PDA says it is concerned about these potential changes because the pharmacist would still be responsible for what happens in the pharmacy even in his or her absence. Giving technicians these new powers would also threaten patient safety, it says.

The PDA is now surveying its members to discover what they think the impact of such changes would be and if they agree with them.

Mark Koziol, chairman of the PDA, says the association supports technicians taking on roles traditionally performed by a pharmacist, but argues that it is essential this only happens when the pharmacist is in the pharmacy.

“A pharmacy without a pharmacist is a less safe place than a pharmacy with a pharmacist present,” he says.

Potential new roles for pharmacy technicians were discussed at a confidential meeting in April 2015 between government representatives, pharmacists and technicians and the government’s Rebalancing Medicines Legislation and Pharmacy Regulation Programme Board. The board is looking at supervision in the pharmacy as part of its remit to reform medicines legislation.

In a statement issued on 3 May 2015, the Association of Pharmacy Technicians UK (APTUK), which represents pharmacy technicians, said the PDA website statement was “misleading”.

“APTUK are integral to the discussions on supervision providing examples of how pharmacy technicians can support the delivery of patient centred outcomes now and in the future,” says APTUK’s president Tess Fenn. “Being accountable registered pharmacy professionals provides the patients, public and the profession with the reassurance they need that trained and competent staff, as part of the pharmacy team, are able to meet their healthcare needs.” 

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2015.20068529

Readers' comments (5)

  • “A pharmaceutical industry without more pharmacists is a less safe place”. We need more pharmacists.

    “A hospital without more pharmacists is a less safe place”. We need more pharmacists.

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  • Pharmacists and technicians must work together in registered pharmacies and the responsible pharmacist must determine what practices are safely delegated. I thought RPs were already able to do this anyway and may be absent from the premises.
    Technicians are well trained and can and should do more to free pharmacists for clinical and public health patient and public facing roles, provided appropriate safeguards are in place to protect the public and the responsible pharmacist.
    However that shouldn't mean that all technicians must always do more everywhere whenever they choose.
    In my patient experience the handing over of my bag of medicines by a pharmacist with no counselling or inquiry about my health or monitoring of my treatment is frankly a waste of their time and skills. If pharmacists really want to hand out bags then they need to do it better.

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  • I agree that technicians are well-placed, capable, and can be educated to take certain responisbilities however the APTUK proposals do not sufficiently protect the patient, the pharmacist or the technician. In fact, in some ways they are exploiting technicians as a cheaper workforce and alternative to pharmacists. Whilst many technicians may be capable of doing these roles, my biggest issue is if the majority of technicians (who in my experience are not actually associated with or have even heard of APTUK) would want these additional responsibilities and work-patterns? At the moment technicians are well-paid for what they do, what APTUK is proposing is more complex, and arguably clinical, work and responsibility for no benefit? This would only benefit the big multiples who would have to employ fewer pharmacists and are no doubt supporting this agenda. This is a clear demonstration of the bougoisee promoting their own interests.

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  • Technicians are hugely valuable members of staff. I personally don't feel that they would have the level of training necessary to supervise the giving of clinical advice or should be able to do this when the pharmacist is absent. That really also applies to handing out medication. What if the patient has a query?
    I do however believe that they are more than capable of supervising and undertaking most other tasks eg currently no part of the dispensing process can take place if no RP, this could easily take place under the supervision of a technician

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  • Kirstin
    If the RP believes the technician is not able to deal with clinical questions or advice then their SOPs should say that they must refer these to the pharmacist. Simple really. Given that around 80% of prescriptions are repeats, technicians should be able to deal with much of the workload and free pharmacists to deal with patients or doctors who need their clinical advice
    Technicians can only do what RPs allow them to do so what's the problem? Tell them they cant do it in your SOPs. However technicians are capable of being trained clinically. As far back as the 1980s a technician I knew ran their own patch testing clinic in a district general hospital for a consultant dermatologist because the pharmacist and consultant were content they could fulfil the role. Now not all technicians (or pharmacists) could or would have wanted to do that.
    Pharmacy needs innovation so let us allow the innovators do so and take their professions forward. The rest can stay as they are. till they are comfortable the change suits them and their technicians.

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