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The Future is Bright for Pharmacy Technicians in the NHS

The Future is Bright for Pharmacy Technicians in the NHS By Liz Fidler, Senior Professional Advisor Pharmacy Technician Practice, NHS England

Liz has worked across various pharmacy sectors and is a leader in driving the pharmacy technician profession forward. Liz is the Senior Professional Advisor Pharmacy Technician Practice at NHS England. She has led many workforce developments to ensure the skills and expertise of pharmacy technicians are recognised. Liz is the immediate Past President of the Association of Pharmacy Technicians UK and is in her final year of an Executive Masters in Business Administration at the University of Greenwich.

It’s one year since I came into post as Senior Professional Advisor, Pharmacy Technician Practice, part of the Chief Pharmaceutical Officer’s team here at NHS England, and I’d like to invite you to join me in celebrating the progress being made by the pharmacy technician profession.

The vision is for the unique role of the pharmacy technician to become the norm in all sectors of pharmacy and their skills as competent, trusted, registered healthcare professionals used in a way that makes them essential to every pharmacy team in the NHS.

It has been professionally and personally rewarding to have collaborated with many teams in NHS England and in the various sectors of pharmacy practice over the last year. My role as a professional leader is about raising awareness and building on the opportunity that having two registered pharmacy professions brings to broadening access to clinical services for patients.

This is exciting in relation to community pharmacy at the moment, where we’re seeing a lot of hard work come to fruition with the publication of the updated service specifications for the NHS Blood Pressure Check and Smoking Cessation services. Both now allow pharmacy technicians to perform these services in addition to those professionals who already undertake them.

This is only the start of what is possible because, as is the case with many healthcare professions, the scope of practice for pharmacy technicians is being explored actively to make the most effective use of their skills, training and potential as multi-professional healthcare team members.

Vaccinations, administration of medicines, preparation of aseptic products, homecare, virtual wards, urgent and emergency care, ambulatory and NHS111 services - all these are currently being explored to determine the potential contribution by pharmacy technicians to do more for patients.

Pharmacists and pharmacy technicians, with the wider pharmacy team, work as part of multi-professional teams to provide and contribute to clinical services using their knowledge and expertise about medicines.

Education reform for both pharmacy professions is enabling this transition to better skill mix and this in turn will enable better access for patients to healthcare. This creates an exciting time for pharmacy technicians to use their improved initial education and training in secondary and primary care. It also helps to support recruitment and retention of pharmacy technicians as potential recruits realise the satisfying career opportunities which are available.

Since becoming a registered profession in 2011, entry to the professional register with the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) is via a 2-year education programme supported by 1,260 hours in practice. Most pre-registration trainee pharmacy technicians undertake this as an apprenticeship. This is something I am passionate about, supporting colleagues into a pathway that reflects the demographics of the communities we serve and providing opportunities to grow the workforce. Aligning this with our Inclusive Pharmacy Practice work ensures that pharmacy technicians can have equitable opportunities to grow their skills and deliver more for patients. 

I’ve been working particularly closely with the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) on legislation changes to make better use of skills mix in community pharmacy teams, which will help alleviate workforce pressures, increase productivity and improve job satisfaction. The use of patient group directions allowing pharmacy technicians to supply prescription medicines where appropriate, which could support vaccination drives, hospital discharge and provision of emergency hormonal contraception, is likely to be consulted on this summer.

The inclusion of pharmacy technicians as one of the Additional Roles Reimbursement Scheme roles in April 2020 demonstrated the potential of the profession and the value of our skills and knowledge around medicines. Now pharmacy technicians can conduct medicines reviews, provide clinical services and whole lot more as part of the primary care team. I have been so impressed by the contributions that pharmacy technicians are supporting. For example, pharmacy technicians are supporting structured medication reviews, which includes measuring renal function and assessing anticholinergic burden as part of the healthcare team in primary care. You can hear more examples of great practice of pharmacy technicians’ roles by listening to NHS Specialist Pharmacy Service podcasts.

I was also pleased that pharmacy technician leaders were included in the Chief Pharmaceutical Officer’s Pharmacy Leaders’ Development Programme for the first time. And in May, I launched the Pharmacy Technician Professional Advisory Forum and its membership reflects the expertise and scope of pharmacy technician professional practice across the wide breadth of healthcare. The new forum will inform the Chief Pharmaceutical Officer’s team and relevant NHS England policy teams on pharmacy technician professional practice including education and training, professional standards, scope of practice and implementation. This will be hugely valuable as we recognise and build on the potential of how pharmacy technicians can support patient care and medicines optimisation.

As I start my second year in this role, the future really is bright. The independent prescribing pathfinders which are being established in every integrated care board for 2023-24 provide a rich opportunity to look at the service and operating models for using pharmacy technician skills to the full.

The changes to pharmacist initial education and training, which mean every newly qualified pharmacist will be an independent prescriber from day one of registration from September 2026, provide the perfect opportunity to look at the contributions of pharmacy technicians.

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