A petition to stop pharmacies dispensing in the absence of a pharmacist, known as remote supervision, will be responded to by the Government as it has surpassed 10,000 signatures.
The petition, which has gathered 10,166 signatures at the time of going to press, appeals to readers to ‘reject remote pharmacist proposals’ and ‘keep pharmacists present for patients’.
The availability of a qualified pharmacist on site for consultations without appointment at all times is ‘a fundamental patient right’, according to the petition.
Petitions on a Government website that receive 10,000 signatures or more will receive a written response.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) first proposed remote supervision in 2006, which would allow pharmacies to dispense medicines without a pharmacist being physically present to supervise if a contractor is listed as the responsible pharmacist for multiple sites.
A DHSC memo leaked in 2017 suggested the rebalancing committee, which reviews pharmacy legislation and regulation, supported the sale and supply of pharmacy and Prescription Only (PO) medicines by pharmacy technicians.
Patient safety at risk?
Policy manager at the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) Greg Lawton said that ‘patient safety would be jeopardised’ by the proposals as ‘the presence of a pharmacist is fundamental to the care and safety of the public’.
He said: ‘We hope that the petition will help the Government to reconsider their current proposals – which if implemented as they stand will inevitably lead to the dispensing and supply of medicines taking place without the oversight or supervision of a pharmacist.
‘Over 10,000 people have signed this petition; it would seem apposite for the Government, among other things, to set this against the responses received to its recent public consultation on the matter. It’s an opportunity for the government to show it’s listening.’
The DHSC’s UK-wide consultation on remote supervision closed on 11 September and the publication of its outcome is expected soon.
Pharmacists should be more visible
A spokesman for the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) said: ‘Responsibility and accountability for the safe supply of medicines must remain with the responsible pharmacist.
‘Standard operating procedures and systems only go so far. In many situations there is no substitute for the professional and clinical judgment of the pharmacist on the spot [so] there should be a pharmacist present in every community pharmacy throughout the opening hours.
He added: ‘The effect of any changes should be to enable the pharmacist presence in the pharmacy to become more, not less, visible to patients.’
The Association of Pharmacy Technicians UK (APTUK) were approached for comment.