A greater use of dispensary automation is ‘essential’ to the development of the sector, the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) has advised.

The pharmacy union proposed a ‘vital’ extended role for pharmacy technicians, highlighting an automated dispensary as a way to do this in the final chapter of its Pharmacy Technicians Report, published this week (4 March).

This would allow pharmacists to develop their own careers, it said.


Extended roles are ‘vital’


The PDA said: ‘[We have] consistently argued that if the role of the pharmacist in the community pharmacy setting is to develop and flourish, then an extended role for pharmacy technicians is not only necessary, but vital.’

However, it said: ‘Additional dispensary support must be available to pharmacy teams before the role of the pharmacy technician can be safely extended.

‘Essential precursory clinical governance improvements include greater use of automation, the integration of bar-code checking into the dispensing process, the regular availability and reliance upon clinical information and adequate staffing levels.’

A PDA spokesperson told The Pharmacist that ‘none of these [improvements] on its own is a silver bullet’.

The spokesperson added: ‘Automation has the potential to improve the accuracy of repetitive technical processes, which could assist pharmacy technicians to perform their roles and give pharmacists greater confidence to place their reliance on pharmacy technicians and those processes.

‘Greater transparency of safety data than exists at present relating to automated processes is required, and independent verification of the data could assist its acceptance and development in pharmacy.’


Structured career framework


The report also recommended new roles for community pharmacists and pharmacy technicians within a structured career framework - with accompanying clinical governance, training and funding to incentivise the taking on of more responsibilities.

It proposed a progression of staff grades for pharmacy technicians through the roles of practitioner, advanced practitioner, specialised practitioner and established specialised practitioner, with a similar framework for pharmacists.

The suggested developments aim to support community pharmacists by making technicians ‘more effective and accountable team members, operating as part of a far more effective and transparent form of skill mix that would help free up pharmacists’ time to develop clinical roles’, according to the report.