Different parts of the community pharmacy sector continue to hold varied opinions about pharmacy supervision, but their recent collective report represents a ‘consensus’ among the sector, a conference has heard.

The report, which was published in August to inform the Department of Health and Social Care’s promised consultation on the issue, recommends that responsible pharmacists be allowed to delegate aspects of the preparation, assembly, sale and supply of medicines to appropriate members of the pharmacy team in defined circumstances.

And it called for the requirement to have a pharmacist physically present within the pharmacy to be maintained.

‘We were able to disagree but not fall out’

Speaking during a panel session at this year’s Pharmacy Show, sector leaders outlined what led them to resurrect the debate around supervision, with representatives from the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp), National Pharmacy Association (NPA), Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS), Association of Pharmacy Technicians (APTUK), Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) and the Company Chemists’ Association (CCA) present.

Mark Koziol, chief executive of the PDA, suggested that the sector’s concerns around a remote supervision scenario – which they feared could see one responsible pharmacist (RP) responsible for tens of pharmacies whilst being elsewhere delivering services in the community rather than being present in the pharmacy – led them to get involved in the working group to help shape the discussion.

Meanwhile, Sandeep Dhami, superintendent of MW Philips Pharmacy Group, representing AIMp, said that it was important for pharmacies innovating new models of business, including using technology, automation and artificial intelligence, to help to shape the legislation that would impact their business.

While Mr Dhami told delegates that he would have like the proposed changes ‘to go further’, Mr Koziol stressed that this was not the position of the report.

And Mr Koziol added the supervision group had come to a consensus on separating the preparation, assembly and sale and supply of medicines as distinct areas of responsibility, as well as on maintaining the physical presence of a pharmacist in the pharmacy.

Nick Kaye, chief executive of the NPA, told delegates that during the cross-sector discussion, representatives from different parts of community pharmacy were able to ‘disagree but not fall out’.

‘I think what the report does is realistically, I think, get to a point where different people can evolve different models of care whilst maintaining patient safety,’ he said.

If legislative changes were made following the DHSC consultation, he said that it would be up to each individual organisation to help its members work out what that would look like in their settings.

Next steps

A consultation from the DHSC on the issue is set to be forthcoming, with an expectation that it may be more wide-ranging than what is covered in the sector’s report.

The groups represented on the panel said they would use some or all of the cross-sector report in their response, with some suggesting they would add more depending on what was asked. Mr Dhami noted that AIMp would use ‘elements of it’.

Panellists suggested that work and potentially further consultations would also need to be undertaken by the RPS and the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) on the issue before it became a reality.

Last week, Malcolm Harrison, chief executive of the CCA, told The Pharmacist that proposed supervision changes would free up pharmacists to deliver more services whilst still being present in the pharmacy.