Updated service specifications outlining how pharmacy technicians can deliver NHS blood pressure check and smoking cessation services have been published this week.

Pharmacy technicians have been legally permitted to perform pressure checks as part of the hypertension case-finding service and deliver the smoking cessation service since 28 March.

But the updated service specifications had to progress through NHS England’s (NHSE) publication process and have now been published.

In an NHS primary care bulletin sent yesterday (8 June), NHS England encouraged all pharmacy technicians to read the operational processes, familiarise themselves with the NICE guidelines, and complete the e-learning.

In a blog for the Association of Pharmacy Technicians UK (APTUK), Liz Fidler, senior professional advisor pharmacy technician practice at NHS England, said that the changes were ‘only the start of what is possible’ in terms of pharmacy technicians taking on more clinical work.

‘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,’ she said.

‘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.’

The opportunity to make better use of the skills mix within the pharmacy team, accompanied by VAT changes that make services carried out by staff under the supervision of a pharmacist VAT-free, has also been welcomed across the pharmacy sector.

In particular, the Company Chemists’ Association (CCA) said that the VAT changes will ‘place pharmacists on an equal footing with GPs and other prescribers’, creating a competitive commissioning landscape.

The new service specification for the hypertension service enables pharmacy technicians to join pharmacists in identifying eligible patients with high blood pressure and refer them to general practice, and to undertake ad hoc clinic and ambulatory blood pressure measurements at the request of general practice.

And pharmacy technicians and pharmacists delivering the service must be familiar with the service specification, the NICE Guideline (NG136) Hypertension in adults: diagnosis and management, and complete training on how to use the blood pressure monitoring equipment, which should be provided by the equipment manager.

The pharmacy contractors must ensure that pharmacists and pharmacy technicians carrying out the service have access to both a blood pressure monitor and an ambulatory blood pressure monitoring, as well as ensuring that a standard operating procedure (SOP) is in place and adhered to.

The service specification sets out what criteria should be used to determine eligible patients, and when test results should be urgently escalated.

It also notes that a high systolic and normal diastolic reading, or a high diastolic and normal systolic reading, should be recorded as a high blood pressure reading.

In addition, it contains details of setting up, withdrawing from and payment for the service.

While the smoking cessation service specification now states that the service must be provided by a pharmacist or pharmacy technician, who must be trained in the use of equipment such as a carbon monoxide (CO) monitor and who must have undertaken the National Centre of Smoking Cessation Treatment (NCSCT) Stop Smoking Practitioner Certification and read the NCSCT Standard Treatment Programme (STP).

The specification also outlines how a consultation should be carried out, how nicotine replacement therapy can be supplied and how follow-up appointments can support the patient to stop smoking over time.