Pharmacy technicians in Northern Ireland will be registered and regulated healthcare professionals, bringing the country in line with the rest of the UK

It comes after a public consultation, which was launched by the Department of Health in Northern Ireland in March 2022, was largely supportive of the proposal.

Robin Swann, the country’s health minister, explained that statutory regulation would help ‘protect patients and promote high standards, thereby enhancing the public’s confidence and trust in pharmacy practice.’

Pharmacy technicians in Northern Ireland are not currently regulated, unlike their counterparts in Great Britain, who have been regulated by the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) since 2011.

According to Mr Swann, department officials have already been instructed to begin to develop a detailed project plan to bring about the statutory regulation of pharmacy technicians by the Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland.

Chief pharmaceutical officer, Cathy Harrison, welcomed the publication of the consultation report, which she said was a ‘further step towards meeting our ambitions for the development of the pharmacy workforce.

‘Our population is best served by full utilisation of the skillset of all members of the pharmacy team to ensure that people get the most from their medicines every day.

‘Progressing the registration and regulation of pharmacy technicians as healthcare professionals in their own right will support the transformation of pharmacy services by optimising skill mix and will help to maintain public safety and confidence in the pharmacy profession.’

According to the DH, there were 113 consultation responses received in total, of which the majority (90) were in support of regulation.

Respondents in favour of technicians being regulated noted the important role played by pharmacy technicians within pharmacy teams and the ‘disparity’ that technicians are regulated in Great Britain but not in Northern Ireland.

Many in favour expressed the view that pharmacy technicians have proven themselves to be a ‘crucial component of the pharmacy health care system’.

They also said that the establishment of a statutory register for pharmacy technicians allows for ‘further advancement’ in technician's careers’.

Of the 21 respondents who raised concerns about this suggestion, some highlighted ‘liability concerns’ related to the fear of being struck off the register and “being made unable to work in the case of an error’.