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Supervision consultation: Patient access to pharmacist must be consistent, says RPS

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Supervision consultation: Patient access to pharmacist must be consistent, says RPS

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society has said it agrees with a government proposal to allow pharmacists to authorise pharmacy technicians to conduct or supervise another person to carry out the preparation, assembly, dispensing, sale and supply of POMs and P medicines but insisted “consistent patient access to pharmacist expertise” must be maintained.

In its response today on the government’s consultation on pharmacy supervision, the professional leadership body said it supports legislative change but laid out a series of “topics that will need to be considered and clarified in regulations and guidance.”

Those included ensuring patients always have access to pharmacists’ expertise and clarification of the concept of “authorisation,” including accountability and the role of superintendent and responsible pharmacists. Pharmacists, the RPS said, should be “uninhibited from exercising their professional judgment.”

In its response to the consultation, the RPS said its members were “concerned about the nature in which authorisation is provided and withdrawn.”

“We believe authorisation should be mandated to be documented, and that this is set out in future regulations, ideally in a digital format, to facilitate audit and review,” it said.

“Such provision would protect both the pharmacist as the person issuing the authorisation, and the pharmacy technician who can demonstrate their agreement to that authorisation. Our members are concerned that undocumented oral authorisations could lead to greater ambiguity and a lack of clarity over accountability in the event of an error.”

The RPS called for workforce planning and investment to be considered and protected time and support to allow for professional development and implementation of the proposals.

It also said the changes should ensure “consistency in skills and training for staff delivering aseptic pharmacy services and clarity of responsibility and accountability within the legislation,” while the public should be made aware of the proposals.

RPS president Claire Anderson said the consultation, which closes on February 29, was “a welcome step towards supporting the clinical role of pharmacists and making the most of the skills within pharmacy teams to support patient care.”

“Our visions across the three countries highlight the upskilling of all members of the pharmacy team as a key way to release the capacity for pharmacists to utilise their clinical and prescribing skills,” she said, insisting the proposals must “balance supporting access to medicines with patient safety.”

“I welcome moves to enable pharmacy teams, when authorised by a pharmacist, to be able to hand out pre-checked and bagged medicines to patients in the absence of a pharmacist when it is safe to do so,” she added.

“Pharmacists were one of the most accessible health professionals during Covid and provided a vital lifeline for the public during a national crisis. Patient groups continue to tell us about the importance of consistent access to pharmacy services and it is vital that changes to legislation do not set us down a road that begins to undermine this principle.

“Implementation must ensure that patients can continue to engage with pharmacists and receive advice and support when they need it.”

Calling for “a more robust approach to supporting professional development to boost staff retention in all sectors of practice,” Anderson added: “Beyond legislative change, pharmacists and pharmacy teams will require support, both in terms of workforce development and adequate investment, to enable the consistent provision of high-quality pharmacy services.”

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