Pharmacy technicians don’t want to be responsible for supervising pharmacies

A recent survey found that most pharmacy technicians don’t want to take responsibility for supervising pharmacies - and even those who would consider it would only do so if their jobs significantly changed.

Thu 5th July 2018 The PDA

The survey of pharmacy technicians was conducted by the PDA (Pharmacists’ Defence Association) in March 2018 and was undertaken after the government’s Rebalancing Medicines Legislation and Pharmacy Regulation programme board agreed in principle to proposals for pharmacy technicians to supervise other pharmacy staff, and the sale and supply of Prescription-only Medicine (POM), Pharmacy Medicine (P) and General Sale List (GSL) medicines to patients, including in the absence of a pharmacist.

The survey asked whether, assuming all conditions (pay, training, career prospects and working conditions) remained the same, pharmacy technicians would accept criminal, civil and regulatory responsibility for supervising the sale and supply of POM, P or GSL medicines to patients, in the absence of a pharmacist on the premises. It also asked pharmacy technicians if they were happy to supervise the actions of other pharmacy staff in those circumstances.

Results

  • 86% of pharmacy technicians said they wouldn’t supervise POM sales in the absence of a pharmacist
  • 80% wouldn’t supervise P or GSL sales if a pharmacist wasn’t there
  • 87% wouldn’t supervise other pharmacy staff in the absence of a pharmacist.

Respondents who would not be prepared to take on supervision roles in their current circumstances were then asked under what circumstances they would consider doing so. They were able to select more than one option. In relation to supervising the sale or supply of prescription only medicines:

  • 30% indicated they would not be prepared to take this responsibility under any circumstances at all;
  • 42% said they’d do it if there was a pharmacist physically on the premises who they could ask for help if needed (which would mean they weren’t doing it in the absence of a pharmacist); and
  • 15% said they’d do it if they qualified as a pharmacist themselves (which again would mean that supervision was still being done by a pharmacist).

Respondents selected a range of other factors such as the removal of the possibility of criminal prosecution if anything went wrong, higher salaries in line with the responsibilities, additional training (options up to and including degree level were selected), better staffing levels in the pharmacy, and for a pharmacist to take responsibility for any regulatory action or negligence claims if anything went wrong.

The PDA are concerned that the rebalancing board have not discussed these proposals with the pharmacy profession or pharmacy technicians. The board has consistently refused to allow the PDA, which is now the biggest pharmacists’ membership organisation, to join and speak up as the voice of pharmacists. The proposals would have a massive impact on a pharmacist’s job and on pharmacy technician’s jobs too. However, 60% of all pharmacy technicians who responded were not even aware of the rebalancing board discussions.

“We don’t have pharmacy technicians in membership, but we still don’t want to see those colleagues placed in inappropriate situations”  said Paul Day, PDA Director.

“We can see the problems in other public services where junior colleagues without the necessary skills or competence have been asked to fulfil professional roles as a cost-cutting exercise. It is bad for them and sees a reduction in standards. Just think of entire school classes being “taught” by Teaching Assistants. In the case of pharmacy, an adverse effect on patient safety through changes to supervision would be simply unacceptable.”

Paul Day continued: “There are some very serious decisions currently being considered by the rebalancing board in relation to the pharmacy skill mix and supervision in the community pharmacy sector. These require a real understanding of the capabilities of pharmacy technicians and a proper and robust mechanism for soliciting the views of grassroots pharmacists and pharmacy technicians when developing proposals that affect their futures.”

The PDA will soon be launching the results of a 3-year project that looks at the role of pharmacy technicians and will encourage pharmacists to join the debate on this important part of the pharmacy team.

 

Notes to Editors

About the pharmacy technicians survey

  • The survey was carried out in March 2018 and included 143 responses (86% came from England, 10% from Scotland and 4% from Wales).
  • 73% of respondents worked in the community sector in their main role, 12% in hospital, 9% in primary care, 1% in industry and 5% in an “other” area of practice.
  • 14% were APTUK members. 70% had heard of the APTUK but were not members and 16% had never heard of the APTUK.

About the PDA

The PDA (The Pharmacists’ Defence Association) is a not-for-profit organisation, which aims to act upon and support the needs of individual pharmacists and, when necessary, defend their reputation. All PDA members are entitled to free PDA Union membership.

The PDA Union is the only trade union in the UK exclusively for pharmacists. It has a certificate of independence and is a member of Unions21 and EPhEU. The PDA and the PDA Union have more than 27,000 members.

 

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The Pharmacists' Defence Association is a company limited by guarantee. Registered in England; Company No 4746656.

The Pharmacists' Defence Association is an appointed representative in respect of insurance mediation activities only of
The Pharmacy Insurance Agency Limited which is registered in England and Wales under company number 2591975
and is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (Register No 307063)

The PDA Union is recognised by the Certification Officer as an independent trade union.

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