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Lessons on successful skill mix using technicians in the Dental Profession should be applied to pharmacy

The dental sector provides a good exemplar of how skill mix has been developed to support the work of the dentist, to widen the scope of the service and ultimately to improve the service to patients. Six types of dental technicians have been registered by the General Dental Council (GDC).

Wed 10th October 2018 The PDA

Each group has its own training requirements, specific roles and responsibilities and each enjoys a career structure and a skills / salary escalator. The GDC has produced guidance for dentists describing specific areas in which each registrant group has more specialised and identifiable knowledge, skills and experience and sets certain conditions and restrictions of practice which ensure that the dental technicians are utilised at the appropriate time. This enables dentists to know how they can rely upon specific groups of technicians to allow them not only to delegate safely and effectively, but to do so in a way that helps them to develop their service to patients in a practical sense. For example, dental nurses must be present alongside the dentist to record the notes of oral examinations, assist with patients during procedures and to provide a valuable chaperoning service. Such a systematic approach has also been used in the optical and veterinary professions.

In pharmacy however, there is no detailed and standardised definition of a pharmacy technician, nor are there any specific practical tasks that require a pharmacy technician to participate in as a condition of practice. A useful example may include the mandatory availability of a registered pharmacy technician in each pharmacy to undertake a second check on dispensed medicines. It is difficult to differentiate the roles and responsibilities of registered pharmacy technicians from that of unregistered dispensers or other support staff currently. The current vague arrangements provide no structural advantages that can be used to the benefit of the service nor by pharmacists to determine which specific roles to delegate.


To address the problems associated with the poor definition of pharmacy technician roles, pharmacy technicians should be divided into several specific groups with a particular level of skill, similar to the model used in the dental sector. A skills escalator should be established, each level requiring a different level of additional knowledge and education (beyond that gained through initial education and training) and each level should support a specific aspect of the work and role that a pharmacy technician might undertake to support the role of a pharmacist e.g. Accuracy Checking Technician, a dispensing technician, a hospital pharmacy ward-based technician, GP surgery based pharmacy technician a care home pharmacy technician.

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