The PDA have set out their views on the role of pharmacy technicians. In a 300-page report that has taken over three years to compile, the PDA have rigorously examined the available evidence and made recommendations on how the roles and skill mix of community pharmacists and pharmacy technicians could be developed for the future.
The report begins by exploring the differences between healthcare professionals and technicians. It makes important distinctions around the nature of each, based on a wide range of evidence.
The PDA says in its report:
“A technical role, as performed by a technician, will have a set of instructions; there will be a script to follow. If a technician identifies a problematic situation, he or she will know whether the matter will have to be handed over to someone else who knows what to do, or to seek guidance on how to proceed. As the person supporting the role of the professional, in such problematic situations, the technician will naturally turn to the professional for guidance, including in respect of the appropriate steps to be taken. Many technical procedures, such as taking blood or performing an x-ray, or assembling and labelling medicines as ordered on a prescription, require specific technical steps that rarely vary.”
The PDA, through the report, describe their view of the role of the pharmacy technician as being fundamentally different to that of a pharmacist. There is a distinction drawn between the pharmacy technician and the pharmacist and their respective roles and responsibilities. The role of the technician is characterised in the report as one that involves following a set of instructions, the technical steps of which “rarely vary”.
“Pharmacists, due to the nature of their training, will not only understand the need for specific questioning and tests; they will know how to interpret results, make decisions based on what they find and explain what is happening to their patients – and why. They also need to be able to practice ethical decision making and operate in ‘shades of grey’ where clinical situations require them to be able to critically appraise and balance the available evidence and options regarding an intervention – and use that evidence to inform decisions based on the needs of individual patients.
“It is in the public interest that healthcare professionals are involved in all clinical and ethical decision-making. Pharmacists do not need to perform every task themselves, but as individuals held to account by the public for patient safety, they must be satisfied that only suitable tasks are delegated to pharmacy technicians, who in turn must be appropriately qualified and experienced. They should usually be supervising the work of pharmacy technicians to some extent, and always be readily available for pharmacy technicians to consult when the need arises.”
“It is also in the public interest to ensure that both pharmacists’ and pharmacy technicians’ skills and competencies are used to the best effect, which requires an understanding of where the boundaries lie between their respective skills and competencies. These boundaries must also be clearly linked to the underpinning qualifications, competency assessment and professional awareness, to ensure that their roles interlock effectively and safely.”
Paul Day, Director of the PDA, said:
“Pharmacy technicians are the valued colleagues of our pharmacist members. They are a key part of the pharmacy sector and although the PDA do not have technicians in membership, our members also want technicians to enjoy respect and fair treatment at work, job security and career development and appropriate reward. Though pharmacists and pharmacy technicians work together in the same team, there was a need to distinguish clearly in the report between what each can do to inform the thinking on their respective roles, and consider how they might work together for the benefit of all in pharmacy and patients too.”
The PDA plans to release the report over the coming months, to inform an intelligent debate about the future roles of community pharmacists and pharmacy technicians. In order to cover all the key discussion points of the report, over the coming weeks we will be summarising the key topics covered and the PDA’s reasoning behind each recommendation.