Proposed changes to supervision and patient group directions (PGDs) will deliver increased access to care ‘for the patient’ and relieve pressures on the workforce, the vice president of the Association of Pharmacy Technicians UK (APTUK) has suggested.

Nicola Stockmann addressed ‘fearmongering’ around proposed changes to supervision – which the government is accepting feedback on until the end of today (29 February) – and around allowing pharmacy technicians to operate under PGDs.

And she urged pharmacists to respond to the government consultations that aim to broaden the role of pharmacy technicians.

Speaking to community pharmacy contractors at the Sigma Conference 2024, Ms Stockmann said that while pharmacists might have concerns around issues like professional scope and role creep, they should consider the impact of potential changes on patients and workforce.

When reviewing proposals, she suggested pharmacists ask: ‘What does that mean to that patient? What does that access look like for that patient? What does that mean for the capacity within our services?’

Regarding the supervision consultation in particular, Ms Stockmann said: ‘We're not saying pharmacies should not have pharmacists in them. Pharmacists are valued. What I'm saying is, let's make sure their skills are best utilised. Let's make sure that that frees up the capacity for the right person to do the right thing for that patient.’

‘We're really lucky. We have two registered pharmacy professionals in pharmacy. Let's use that,’ Ms Stockmann urged.

Pharmacy technicians have been registered since 2011, and in January of this year there were 25,745 pharmacy technicians on the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) register, compared to 25,110 the previous year, according to figures shared by Ms Stockmann at the conference.

‘We're growing, but that means that we need to make sure that we're maximising our potential, freeing up everybody to do the right role at the right time.’

‘My ask for you is to really engage with that [consultation] and make sure that we are supporting the workforce in the future,’ she said.

‘This is pivotal to workforce. Strengthening that workforce starts with things like this [consultation]. Legislation takes forever to come out. So let's do something about it,’ Ms Stockmann said.

‘When we're talking about strengthening the pharmacy workforce we need to have enablers to do that. That’s really important,’ Ms Stockmann stressed.

And she added that access to pharmacy was 'really important to our patients', stressing: 'That is why we're here.'

Ms Stockmann said that pharmacy technicians were waiting ‘with bated breath’ for the outcome of the consultation proposing to allow pharmacy technicians to operate under PGDs, as many other registered health professionals already do.

Ms Stockmann added that the proposed changes would ‘allow us to bring both quality and access’ to patient services.

But she noted that even if the changes were passed ‘[it] doesn't mean everyone's going to be using it, it doesn't mean necessarily those day one pharmacy technicians are going to be using it, but it means it's a possibility – that access becomes possible’.

Speaking to contractors present, Ms Stockmann said: ‘If you have pharmacy technicians in your workplace, please invest in them. We do so much. We can do so much more.’

Responding to pressures on community pharmacy already outlined during the conference, she said: ‘We're all on the same boat. And we just need to make sure that we're all working together to make the best of what we’ve got.’

Ms Stockmann also highlighted a government consultation around expanding access to Naloxone, used in opioid overdoses.

The consultation closes on 6 March, and proposes to change the terminology of who can supply the drug from ‘pharmacists’, to ‘pharmacy professionals’ - therefore allowing pharmacy technicians to supply Naloxone.

‘Again, that means access [for] that patient. Crucial medicines at a crucial time. Why would we not want to make sure that the access is there for those patients?’ Ms Stockmann asked.

The government's consultation on supervision, which closes today, followed a 'consensus' report from a cross-sector working group that proposed allowing responsible pharmacists to delegate aspects of the preparation, assembly, sale and supply of medicines to appropriate members of the pharmacy team in defined circumstances.

Several pharmacy groups later responded to the government's published consultation, with the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) saying it ‘supports legislative change’ but adding that ‘clarification’ was needed, as well as urging the government to act 'as soon as possible' on the issue.

Meanwhile the Pharmacists' Defence Association (PDA) challenged several of the government's proposals around 'authorisation', including suggesting that authorisations should never be simply given orally.

In a statement released today, National Pharmacy Association (NPA) chair Nick Kaye, said: 'Modernising supervision rules to make it easier for people to see a pharmacist or promptly get the medicines they need in a community pharmacy is good news, but clarity on the detail is vital to maintain the smooth running of pharmacies and to protect the public.'

He stressed: 'The physical presence of a pharmacist within a pharmacy is a critical safeguard so it’s important that the detail of any changes is crystal clear so both pharmacies and the public are protected.

'As it stands, some of the proposals are wide open to interpretation and this lack of clarity needs to be addressed before any changes are applied.'

In its formal response to the consultation, which was finalised following member engagement, the NPA said that modernisation of the regulations is long overdue, including the need to enable non-pharmacist members of the pharmacy team to hand out checked and bagged prescriptions.

But it said that further clarity was needed around where accountability would lie under the proposed changes when ‘authorisation’ is given by a pharmacist to a registered pharmacy technician.