I was delighted to see so much news coverage about pharmacy technicians in the pharmacy press last month. Much of the coverage celebrated the role of pharmacy technicians, while other articles called for further clarity and definition. Something that I’ll hopefully start to offer here.
It is challenging to define a role that is so diverse, that covers many areas of practice and involves such a vast list of everyday tasks and responsibilities. In the past I have said that we need to be flexible within the pace of change for pharmacy practice and healthcare, to ensure we are meeting the changing needs of patients and their carers.
Our main role, as is the case with the whole pharmacy profession, is to facilitate medicines optimisation: to help and support patients to understand and take their medicines to get the best use out of them. Medicines are a very precious resource and with so much of the NHS budget spent on them, we have an important role in making sure that they are used appropriately and to try to help reduce any potential waste.
Within the new GPhC professional standards, which we as pharmacy professionals are personally accountable for meeting, standards one, three and five support us in putting this into everyday practice. We must provide person-centred pharmaceutical care by supporting every individual we serve to make decisions about their medicines. We can do this by communicating effectively, adapting our language to the person, listening to them and making sure they understand. Of course we need to do this using our professional judgement and our own knowledge and skills. This will mean that sometimes we will have the right level of knowledge and sometimes we will have to involve others. It also means that we need to consider legal and professional responsibilities and determine what we can and can’t do. That involves having self-awareness and only working to the limits of our competence i.e. knowing when to refer to a pharmacist.
So, this is where the GPhC standard two comes into play: being able to work in partnership with others and showing effective teamwork. I believe this needs to be the strength of pharmacy going forward in order to help us deliver the pharmaceutical healthcare needs of an ever increasing population made up of a growing number of elderly patients. If current trends continue, it is predicted that by 2024 some 20 per cent of the UK population will be over the age of 65 years. Along with this is the challenge of providing effective care for people living with long-term conditions (LTC), which increases the number of medicines they may be taking and brings the issue of polypharmacy to the fore.
To support the NHS in delivering first class care in this challenging healthcare landscape, I am sure you will be aware of discussions on ‘transformational change’ and the greater use of pharmacy, particularly community pharmacy, to help this. Next month, I’ll consider the factors that are being talked about as possibilities or bringing about this change and how this can be done.