Opportunity or risk?
Liz Fidler considers the impact of the emerging role of the primary care pharmacy technician on community pharmacy
The way community pharmacy has and continues to provide care to patients and communities during the pandemic cannot be disputed. Social media is awash with examples of how it has been at the heart of healthcare services, doors open and working in innovative ways to ensure care is available when other services have not been as accessible. Community pharmacies are providing more than just a collection service. They are reassuring people, offering refuge, answering questions, signposting to other services, the list goes on.
The skills and expertise pharmacy technicians contribute to these vital services is obvious. One look on Twitter and you can see job advert after job advert for pharmacy technicians, demonstrating their importance. It is therefore critical that work continues at all levels to embrace and understand this.
Change is ahead
The tide has changed, in my opinion, and strategic conversations are lending themselves to understanding what the pharmacy technician profession can do, and how this registered workforce can utilise their transferable skills.
Community pharmacy has long battled with balancing training and retention. I honestly feel that the challenge of providing a career pathway in community pharmacy is emerging. But employers and system leaders must look to ensure this is valued and remunerated. Having another registered healthcare professional who, working within their scope of practice, could support immunisation clinics, final accuracy checks, manage the dispensary workflow, counsel patients on new medicines, provide Healthy Living Pharmacy services, and so on, surely is complimentary in these times of demand?
We need to get to a point where the responsible pharmacist can safely delegate the issuing of a pre-clinically screened and accuracy checked medicine, which may have sat on a shelf for three days, to another registered professional during their lunch break – especially when we have lived through times where taxis have been delivering medicines.
If community pharmacy does not embrace change and empower pharmacy technicians, primary care employers certainly will.
Primary care pharmacy technicians
With the evolving roles being offered in primary care, supported by inclusion in the Additional Roles Reimbursement Scheme (as part of the Primary Care contract), community pharmacy will need to embrace innovative ways to ensure services can evolve. Many of the competences outlined in APTUK and the Primary Care Pharmacy Association’s ‘National Competency Framework for Primary Care Pharmacy Technicians’ are transferable across primary care and community pharmacy. Providing an education framework for the profession enables employers to be assured that those they employ have met a UK-wide standard.
As president of APTUK, my challenge is: how do we ensure community pharmacy and primary care work in harmony for the benefit of the patients and communities we serve? It’s that one end of the high street does not take valuable skills and expertise from the other end of the high street as, after all, these will be the same patients.
The Covid-19 pandemic has provided the opportunity to work differently, and many are embracing this. Joint appointments for the benefit of patient care feel like the correct approach to take. In addition, considering joint pre-registration trainee pharmacy technician posts utilising an apprenticeship route as a model of growing this workforce.
One thing I feel that is loud and clear is that community pharmacy needs to grasp this opportunity and work with primary care colleagues to enable pharmacy technicians to reach their potential – we owe this to our patients.
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