Association of Pharmacy
Technicians UK (APTUK)
The Professional Leadership Body for Pharmacy Technicians

The PDA has written an in-depth report that assesses the current role and capabilities of Pharmacy Technicians in the UK. The 300-page document, which has taken 3 years to compile, highlights proposals to develop the roles of community pharmacists and pharmacy technicians, and the skill mix required to meet patients' needs.

PDA say the report has been designed to promote an intelligent debate about the future roles of Pharmacists and Pharmacy Technicians, and how these might work together, delving into a wide range of relevant topics, which need to be properly considered and addressed.

Prior to publishing the full report, the PDA will, over the coming few months be breaking the report down into discussion points, analysing key considerations and providing their reasoning behind each recommendation for improvement.  This will be published on their website. 

Johnathan Laird, Editor of Pharmacy in Practice has issued his latest article on a key topic in the PDA's Pharmacy Technicians Report (also published on the PDA website).  In the article Johnathan describes that the report begins by exploring the differences between healthcare professionals and technicians. It makes important distinctions around the nature of each, based on a wide range of evidence.  The article includes a number of extracts from the report to demonstrate this:

“A technical role, as performed by a technician, will have a set of instructions; there will be a script to follow. If a technician identifies a problematic situation, he or she will know whether the matter will have to be handed over to someone else who knows what to do, or to seek guidance on how to proceed. As the person supporting the role of the professional, in such problematic situations, the technician will naturally turn to the professional for guidance, including in respect of the appropriate steps to be taken. Many technical procedures, such as taking blood or performing an x-ray, or assembling and labelling medicines as ordered on a prescription, require specific technical steps that rarely vary.”

“Pharmacists, due to the nature of their training, will not only understand the need for specific questioning and tests; they will know how to interpret results, make decisions based on what they find and explain what is happening to their patients – and why. They also need to be able to practice ethical decision making and operate in ‘shades of grey’ where clinical situations require them to be able to critically appraise and balance the available evidence and options regarding an intervention – and use that evidence to inform decisions based on the needs of individual patients.

“It is in the public interest that healthcare professionals are involved in all clinical and ethical decision-making. Pharmacists do not need to perform every task themselves, but as individuals held to account by the public for patient safety, they must be satisfied that only suitable tasks are delegated to pharmacy technicians, who in turn must be appropriately qualified and experienced. They should usually be supervising the work of pharmacy technicians to some extent, and always be readily available for pharmacy technicians to consult when the need arises.”

“It is also in the public interest to ensure that both pharmacists’ and pharmacy technicians’ skills and competencies are used to the best effect, which requires an understanding of where the boundaries lie between their respective skills and competencies. These boundaries must also be clearly linked to the underpinning qualifications, competency assessment and professional awareness, to ensure that their roles interlock effectively and safely.”

Johnathan summarises that the PDA, through the report, describe their view of the role of the pharmacy technician as being fundamentally different to that of a pharmacist. There is a distinction drawn between the pharmacy technician and the pharmacist and their respective roles and responsibilities. The role of the technician is characterised in the report as one that involves following a set of instructions, the technical steps of which “rarely vary”.

A comment from Paul Day, Director of the PDA is included:

“Pharmacy technicians are the valued colleagues of our pharmacist members. They are a key part of the pharmacy sector and although the PDA do not have technicians in membership, our members also want technicians to enjoy respect and fair treatment at work, job security and career development and appropriate reward.  Though pharmacists and pharmacy technicians work together in the same team, there was a need to distinguish clearly in the report between what each can do to inform the thinking on their respective roles, and consider how they might work together for the benefit of all in pharmacy and patients too.”

In response APTUK, as the professional leadership body for Pharmacy Technicians, are clear and steadfast in their belief that Pharmacy Technicians are professionals in their own right and play an integral and important part in the delivery of safe and effective health care for patients and the public.  Pharmacy Technicians are educated and skilled, through initial and post qualification education and training, and our evidence suggests Pharmacy Technicians are working in increasingly diverse areas of practice with autonomy and the need to effect ethical and professional judgement.  Pharmacy Technicians perform their duties within the confines of defined job roles and within the limits of their experience and knowledge, as other professionals do.  A professional can be described as a person who is certified by a professional regulatory body through having completed a required course of study and/or practice. In addition their competence can be measured against an established set of standards.  The General Pharmaceutical Council is clear that ‘the register provides protection for patients by ensuring only those qualified, competent and under a duty to maintain high standards can work as pharmacy technicians in Great Britain’.

APTUK awaits the publication of the PDA report with professional interest.   At this stage we are unaware of the evidence behind the report.   The report has been complied without any guidance or input from APTUK over the three year period despite the President raising this publically in October 2017.   However, we look forward to the publication of the key discussion points and the full report.  We will actively be engaging in discussion and strongly encourage our members and Pharmacy Technicians to do the same.  We believe that this will help to strengthen the understanding of the professional role of the Pharmacy Technician for all health care professionals and the public. 



Pharmacists Defence Association: The Role of Pharmacy Technicians

Pharmacy in Practice: Johnathan Liard: “Pharmacy technicians are not pharmacists” say the PDA

APTUK/University of East Anglia: Identifying the Roles of Pharmacy Technicians in the UK


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