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Rise to the challenges


Rise to the challenges

As the new year dawns, Liz Fidler considers how pharmacy fits into Covid-19 vaccination and the importance of sharing stories of pharmacy technicians’ expertise

As we enter a third national lockdown – and I know that you and your pharmacy teams will be working exceptionally hard – it seems strange to say “Happy New Year”. But it is a new year, and I am hoping that you have been able to take some time to recharge and think about positive opportunities.

Vaccine priorities

Sometimes, with the pace of things, it feels that as soon as I have written something it is out of date. At the time of writing, the exact role community pharmacies will contribute to vaccination administration is still being discussed. Personally, I feel certain that this will become clearer and community pharmacy will do what it always does: rise to the challenge and make things happen swiftly and safely for our patients and communities.

You may have seen local advertisements for vaccinators to support the mass vaccination campaign. The Association of Pharmacy Technicians UK (APTUK) has provided some guidance to support you in navigating the range of information available. As long as you work within the national protocol you can administer vaccines. There is also opportunity for you to work flexibly to do this around current work commitments, should you wish, but it’s key that your expertise is not lost from community pharmacy. The scope of practice for technician roles in community pharmacy will and has to grow. The needs of the healthcare population and service are ever expanding and the only way this will be realised is through better multidisciplinary team working and complimenting skillsets.

As for receiving the vaccine, APTUK has also been working closely with the Royal Pharmaceutical Society to support understanding that all pharmacy staff are defined as priority cohorts by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI). If you do not have an NHS ID, you may need to take proof of where you work with you to the vaccination centre. Please do check local guidelines for current information. The key point is that community staff are recognised as priority cohorts.

Building momentum 

Have you seen the inspiring stories on social media regarding the roles pharmacy technicians are doing? Using our skills and expertise to advise on procuring, storing, supplying, training other healthcare professionals and administering vaccines; there really is nothing that the profession is not at the centre of. 

This encouraged me to tweet the adage: “where there is a vaccine there is a pharmacy technician”. Please do help in spreading this message by posting photos and videos of how you are supporting patients – it does not have to be vaccine related. Often our expertise and skillset are not fully understood, and this is a chance for the profession to let everyone know.

The success of pharmacy technicians demonstrating what they can contribute is evident by the increase in job advertisements I am seeing, especially from primary and secondary care. I am working hard with key stakeholders to have discussions to ensure the role evolves in community pharmacy to support the delivery of patient-facing clinical services. Developing the career pathways available is critical, as is ensuring that we have enough pre-registration places available. There is much to be done to keep the profession on the trajectory that has been building, especially this last year.

As I said in my December article, this year really is the year of the pharmacy technician. If like me you are not a fan of resolutions, can I just ask that you make a promise to yourself that you will be proud of what you do and that you will put yourself forward – as a registered professional you have a lot to give. Be brave and recognition will follow. Thank you for being you. 

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