Editor's view: Supervision returns
Pharmacy supervision is back on the agenda. PM editor Richard Thomas asks can the profession finally figure out a way forward this time?
It’s been a busy month. The supermarkets are pulling out of pharmacy with unseemly haste, the professional leadership commission has published its long-awaited proposals and the prime minister was warned by sector leaders that many pharmacies might not survive the year.
One item that may have slipped under the radar was the news that the group formed by pharmacy bodies to explore the future of pharmacy supervision has started its work as the Government prepares to embark on legislative reform in this controversial area. At last here is a concerted cross-sector attempt to take ownership of the supervision issue and lead the agenda rather than have unwanted change imposed by politicians.
Interestingly, to provide impartiality, the Association of Optometrists will act as the group secretariat – a shrewd move given the sensitivity of the subject, especially as the optical sector is itself grappling with similar issues around delegation and supervision.
There is already general agreement on the need to update pharmacy’s practice model to reflect modern demands. The hard part is agreeing a way that enables the workforce to maximise its professional capabilities to enhance patient care without compromising access to a pharmacist or public safety. If this was an easy thing to accomplish, it would have been done years ago.
One problem is that decades of case law have failed to define what supervision actually means for pharmacists and their staff. Maybe the working group should argue that, in the absence of such a definition, pharmacy owners already have the flexibility to adapt supervision to modern pharmacy practice, taking into account aspects such as technology and a trained workforce. Is a change in the law even necessary?
Either way, reform appears inevitable. The working group needs to consult widely, establish what quality clinical care from pharmacies looks like and advocate a model of supervision that enables this to happen – while steering well clear of the ‘remote’ word.
We wish it well.