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DH launches landmark consultation on proposed supervision changes

Pharmacy News

DH launches landmark consultation on proposed supervision changes

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has launched a 12-week consultation on proposed changes to pharmacy supervision legislation that would allow pharmacists to delegate medicines supply tasks to colleagues.

The consultation, which runs from today (December 7) until 11:59pm on Thursday February 29, sets out proposed changes to the Human Medicines Regulations 2012 (HMR) that would:

  • Enable pharmacists to authorise pharmacy technicians to carry out tasks “relating to the preparation, assembly, dispensing and sale or supply of medicines,” with the qualification that the pharmacist must give due regard to patient safety – and may be liable to fitness to practise proceedings if this qualification is not adhered to
  • Allow pharmacists to authorise any member of the pharmacy team to hand out dispensed prescriptions “which have been checked for clinical appropriateness and accuracy” in the pharmacist’s absence. The DHSC argued that this would reduce unnecessary delays in patients receiving their medicines
  • Allow pharmacy technicians to supervise the preparation, assembly and dispensing of medicines in hospital aseptic facilities. 

The first and third proposals will only apply in Great Britain, with the aim of introducing them in Northern Ireland once laws pass there to recognise pharmacy technicians as a registered profession.

If implemented, the proposed changes would require ‘consequential changes’ to be made to other pieces of legislation, such as amending the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001 to allow pharmacy technicians to assemble prescriptions that include controlled drugs like morphine and codeine.

The changes would also necessitate amending the HMR wording so that supply would be required to take place “at or from” a registered pharmacy and not “on premises” as the regulations currently state. 

The DHSC said it recognised the position of the Pharmacy Supervision Practice Group that “physical presence of a pharmacist within a retail pharmacy is critical” and emphasised that the power to introduce exceptions to the responsible pharmacist roles now rest with regulatory bodies the General Pharmaceutical Council and the Pharmaceutical Society and Northern Ireland. 

“It is neither necessary nor appropriate to restate a requirement for physical presence in the new provisions permitting delegation,” said the DHSC, adding that the proposed changes “will not in themselves redefine ‘supervision’.

Pharmacy minister Andrea Leadsom said: “By giving pharmacy technicians the chance to use their skills in a safe way and take on more responsibility for dispensing, pharmacists will have more time to carry out the clinical assessments they are trained to do.” 

In a joint statement, the UK’s four chief pharmaceutical officers said the proposals will “improve patient care… by making appropriate, safe and productive use of pharmacy technicians’ knowledge and skills” and enabling pharmacists to deliver more clinical services.

“There is a clear ambition across the UK to maximise the contribution pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and wider team members can make to address the challenges faced by the NHS,” said the CPhOs, adding that there is a need for clarity around how the current requirements are applied as well as changes to ensure the rules are fit for purpose.

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