How do I help ‘raise the bar’ on patient safety?

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How do I help ‘raise the bar’ on patient safety?

This could be a tough question for me, as my job these days is being the President of the Association of Pharmacy Technicians but reflecting on this all that I do is linked with improving patient safety. How, you might ask, as I spend my time attending meetings, attending conferences, presenting on behalf of APTUK and pharmacy technicians, chairing meetings, responding to emails and requests, responding to consultations, nationally and locally advocating the role of pharmacy technicians, developing strategies, polices , supporting the APTUK team of Directors and Professional Committee National Officers and much much more. 

So, I have had to look at how this connects to patients, as I am no longer directly involved in providing pharmacy services at the coal face, i.e. dispensing, issuing and advising on medicines etc. Just today, as an example, I have been in Leeds attending the launch of the ‘Me and my medicines’ campaign, which has been put together by a patient and public involvement group that works locally. Its aim is to help people benefit more from their medicines by encouraging them to ask more questions and resolve issues together with healthcare professionals. It’s about empowering patients to ask questions by using a slogan ‘it’s OK to ask questions’ and developing a ‘Medicines Communication Charter 2017’. During the day, as well as listening to a number of patients presenting on their experiences and concerns about their medicines, I was able to speak to a number personally. I was able to listen and hear about some of their pharmacy experiences first hand. Also, I was able to ask questions to help us, as pharmacy technicians, to understand how we can support patients more.

How will this support patient safety, what next you may ask? Listening to patients concerns, I can see that using the right communication and the right language is absolutely paramount to finding out whether they have any issues with their medicines. We need to know what the problems really are before we can reach to any conclusions and then propose solutions. It is essential that we help and empower patients to tell us if they have any concerns.

As the campaign gains momentum, my aim is to raise awareness of the patient’s experiences with pharmacy technicians and to support them in engaging effectively with patients all of the time, ‘making every contact count’. I can do this by supporting the APTUK national officers to deliver this message, such as putting an article about the campaign in our ‘Pharmacy Technician Journal’, by emailing information to our members, by signposting our members to learning events that could help their communication styles; the list could go on. Any learning can be linked to our ‘Foundation Pharmacy Framework’ programme, supporting pharmacy technicians to show their development and how this links to competence. By doing this APTUK, as the professional body, is ‘leading pharmacy technicians to deliver professional excellence for patient centred care’.


Tess Fenn

President of the Association of Pharmacy Technicians UK

October 2017

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