Health Minister Robin Swann has today announced a consultation on the introduction of statutory regulation of the pharmacy technician workforce in Northern Ireland.
Pharmacy technicians work with pharmacists and other pharmacy staff within health and social care to support the delivery of safe, effective and efficient pharmacy services for patients. This consultation is seeking views on the proposal to regulate pharmacy technicians as a new healthcare profession.
The Minister said: “Pharmacy teams play an essential role in delivering health services to the people of Northern Ireland. We owe them a debt of gratitude as a key and significant part of the health care workforce and rely on their professionalism which has been particularly evident over the course of the pandemic.
“This document sets out a proposal for the introduction of regulation of pharmacy technicians in Northern Ireland that will align us with the rest of the UK and will help to ensure that the pharmacy workforce has the necessary capability and capacity to fully support the transformation of our health service in the coming years.”
Cathy Harrison, Chief Pharmaceutical Officer at the Department of Health, added:
“For many members of the public, pharmacists and pharmacy staff are among the most accessible of all health care workers. Pharmacy teams are a critical part of the multi-disciplinary medicines optimisation workforce required to ensure that our people get the most from the medicines that they use every day.
“A central theme of the Pharmacy Workforce Review 2020 is developing the role of pharmacy technicians within the workforce, in tandem with progressing the regulation and registration of pharmacy technicians as registered professionals in their own right. This will help ensure the full capabilities of the pharmacy workforce are utilised and support a better skill mix of the pharmacy workforce whilst maintaining patient safety and public confidence.
“I welcome this consultation which will run from today, 21 March until 16 May 2022, as it takes us one step further to realising the recommendations contained within the Pharmacy Workforce Review.”
More information about the consultation is available here.
Notes to editors:
1. Photo caption: Health Minister Robin Swann, Pharmacy Technician Debbie McClean, Chief Pharmaceutical Officer Cathy Harrison and Pharmacy Technician Margaret McLaughlin pictured at the pharmacy dispensary in Belfast's Mater Hospital.
2. The Department’s Medicines Optimisation Quality Framework aims to support better health outcomes for our population by focusing attention on gaining the best possible outcome from medicines every time that they are prescribed, dispensed or administered. One of the ambitions is that there is an appropriately trained, skilled and registered pharmacy technician workforce who can contribute to the required skill mix and support the pharmacy service transformation in community and hospital pharmacy through the introduction of new models for optimising patients’ medicines.
3. Pharmacy technicians work closely with pharmacists and their duties include; locating, packing, and labelling prescribed medication that has been reviewed for clinical accuracy by a pharmacist, before being checked and dispensed to the patient. Pharmacy technicians are also able to provide information and advice to patients on using medicines. They can therefore support the delivery of pharmacy services by enabling pharmacists to focus on more complex clinical issues and work to the top of their licence
4. Pharmacy is not regulated on a UK-wide basis. Regulation of the pharmacy profession in England, Scotland and Wales is undertaken by the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC), whereas in Northern Ireland, it is undertaken by the Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland (PSNI). While the general policy framework between these two regulators has much in common, uniquely in the UK, pharmacy technicians in Northern Ireland are not subject to statutory regulation.
5. The growing scope of practice and range of responsibilities of pharmacy technicians requires a commensurate emphasis on their professional regulation to ensure that the high regard in which pharmacy teams are held by patients and the public may be not only maintained but increased. If following this consultation, a decision is made to introduce statutory regulation for pharmacy technicians, further consultation will be required once the drafting of the policy and the necessary legislation had been completed.
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