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Pharmacy supervision consultation launched to modernise UK pharmaceutical practice

A UK-wide consultation into pharmacy supervision has been launched by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).

The consultation sets out proposals to amend and ’modernise’ legislation outlined in the Medicines Act 1968 and The Human Medicines Regulations 2012 on the supervision of activities by a pharmacist in a pharmacy.

The suggested amendments are part of a series of reforms to make full use of registered pharmacy technicians’ knowledge and skills and free-up pharmacist time to deliver more clinical services and ensure these are fit for the future, the DHSC said.

In a joint message about the consultation, the four UK chief pharmaceutical officers (CPhOs) acknowledged the widespread and ’clear ambition’ of maximising the contribution of pharmacists and their teams to support patients and the NHS.

They said: ‘Recognising and more effectively utilising the skills of every member of the pharmacy team will enable pharmacists to spend a greater proportion of their time delivering patient-facing clinical services – using their training and expertise, including prescribing, to release capacity in the wider NHS.’

The proposals outlined in the pharmacy supervision consultation are to:

  • enable pharmacists to authorise pharmacy technicians to carry out, or supervise others carrying out, the preparation, assembly, dispensing, sale and supply of medicines
  • enable pharmacists to authorise any member of the pharmacy team to hand out checked and bagged prescriptions in the absence of a pharmacist
  • allow pharmacy technicians to take primary responsibility for the preparation, assembly and dispensing of medicinal products in hospital aseptic facilities.

In a hospital setting, these proposals would enable pharmacy technicians to play a greater role within multi-professional teams, through increased autonomy and more effective use of their skills and expertise in pharmaceutical care.

This would be achieved, in part, through the introduction of a new, additional method of delegation termed ‘authorisation’, into pharmacy practice.

It would enable pharmacists to authorise registered pharmacy technicians to perform certain tasks that can be safely delegated without having a pharmacist directly supervising them.

Under the proposals registered pharmacy technicians could also take primary responsibility for the preparation and assembly of medicinal products in hospital aseptic facilities, and in doing so, supervise non-registered members of staff.

On community pharmacies, the four CPhOs stressed that the proposals were ‘not a move towards allowing pharmacists to remotely supervise a community pharmacy’.

‘Physical presence of the responsible pharmacist in a retail pharmacy as the default is enshrined in primary legislation that is not being changed as part of this reform’, they said.

Instead, the changes would enable the pharmacist to provide more clinical services from the pharmacy.

‘We must enable pharmacists to spend less time on activities that can be safely delegated, more time on providing clinical services, and provide clarity both on how the legal framework applies, and the accountability between professionals for tasks undertaken at the pharmacy,’ the CPhO message reads.

And it emphasised the CPhOs’ firm and continued belief ‘that there should be a pharmacist responsible for every pharmacy premises and a registered pharmacy professional responsible for the dispensing of medicines’.

As well as contributing to the increased provision of clinical services in all settings and making best use of pharmacists’ and pharmacy technicians’ skills, the CPhOs hope the proposals will also ’improve career progression and job satisfaction’ for the whole pharmacy team.

The online consultation survey on pharmacy supervision is open until 29 February 2024.

Any changes to legislation would then need parliamentary approval before final publication, which DHSC has previously said could be as early as spring 2024.

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