I benefitted from the grandparent clause. I qualified in 1972 as a Pharmacy Technician.
Both of my qualifications were those on the approved list, as I took both of the qualifications available at the time; City and Guilds and Apothecary Hall. I registered voluntarily in 2005 with the then Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain (RPSGB) before it became mandatory in 2011.
Many of my esteemed peers, a number of whom have contributed to the Pharmacy in Practice Pharmacy Technician series, also registered through this route.
There is much debate about this model and managing a successful grand-parenting process is a challenging task, not just for pharmacy but for all organisations. It needs to ensure that the requirements of the legislation are met and also ensuring that the process is fair and consistent to all. An even bigger challenge is communicating this as wide as possible so that all involved have a meaningful and accurate understanding. The Health Professions Council published a fascinating document in 2007 looking at the review of the grand-parenting process they conducted between July 2003 and July 2005. It provides useful additional interesting reading.
Before going on any further though let’s explore the practice of “grand-parenting” and what it really means.
It provides an exemption that allows persons to continue with activities or operations that were approved before the implementation of new rules, regulations or laws. It is also a process that protects the practitioners working at the time who may not possess the credentials/qualifications necessary to meet the new standards. It is usually a time-limited period that allows an exemption to those engaged in specific activities prior to the new rules being put in place. Grand-parenting was used as one of the pharmacy technician routes of entry to, firstly, the voluntary register, administered by the RPSGB as the then regulator and then to the mandatory register, regulated by the General Pharmaceutical Council from 2010. During the grand-parenting period individuals who did not hold an approved qualification, but who could demonstrate through their training and experience that they meet certain criteria, could be registered.
All the regulators will choose different systems and processes and the registration criteria for pharmacy technician registration were consulted widely during 2002 and 2003, prior to the start of voluntary registration in January 2005. Further consultation was carried out again towards the end of 2006 as part of a consultation on the rules underpinning the then Pharmacists and Pharmacy Technicians’ Order 2007.
The RPSGB and GPhC used their discretion in processing the grand-parented applications by asking for robust details of qualifications and work experience which included: details and signed copies of qualification certificates; detailed career history for the last eight years; details of the number of time and hours in practice for either the last 2 years out of the last 4, or 4 years out of the last 8 years depending on the number of weekly hours practised; details (if any) of legal and disciplinary proceedings; health declaration; applicant declaration and a declaration by a countersigning pharmacist quality assuring that all the information was true and accurate and stating how long the applicant had been known and that they were confident the applicant acted as a pharmacy technician with honesty and integrity.
There were two entry routes under the grand-parenting transitional arrangements; route a and b. Route b was put into place to scrutinise further applicants who, although they held a qualification on the approved list, they did not meet the time and hours in practice required for route a. Route b applicants still had to provide evidence of an approved qualification and their career history but, in addition, needed to complete a ‘Statement of Practice’. This required evidence of key role responsibilities, how the role contributed to improving the well-being of patients; examples of keeping up-to-date (CPD); how patient confidentiality is assured; examples of practice covering the generic competencies of pharmacy technicians and three case studies of recent examples of work that demonstrated competence covering at least five of the generic areas of pharmacy technician competence. These applications also required a signature and a declaration by a countersigning pharmacist. Route b applicants were scrutinised by two trained professional assessors appointed by the RPSGB council and a third if the first outcome was not unanimous.
The RPSGB took a pragmatic view and recognised that pharmacy technicians who were in the role may already have completed training and/or have relevant work experience. Exemption from further training was open to staff who had already completed an approved course and had been declared competent by a supervising pharmacist. This benefited many pharmacy technicians, such as me, who at that time already had a considerable number of years’ experience and were working in senior roles.
The responsibility and accountability attached to the declaration of competence signed by a countersigning pharmacist, indicating that this had been assessed and assured, should have reassured the profession and the public that the employee was trained to the required level and was competent in their role.
However, with any grand-parenting model and process, there is always the danger of the perception that there is a caste system of those who earned their recognition and those who ‘fell into’ it. The two groups of registrants are not distinct on the register and this can lead to cynicism among practitioners and to move the pharmacy technician profession forward this cannot be ignored.
I believe that this links with training and development and ensuring it is at the right level required for the role. The employee who receives the necessary training and development opportunities is more able to perform in their role. They will have a greater understanding of their responsibilities and this helps build confidence. Ensuring that everyone is competent gives versatility and flexibility in supporting and meeting the demands of new innovative practice. This in turn supports professional growth and leadership.
To support the up-skilling and early years of pharmacy technicians APTUK developed the Foundation Pharmacy Framework. This development framework is aimed at supporting the delivery of high-quality pharmaceutical care and helps pharmacy technicians in identifying their own learning gaps. It provides them with a structured career progression and seamless evolution from pre-registration trainee, to foundation level practitioner to advanced practitioner. Our framework has been in place since 2014 and is available for professional use with additional support being offered to our members.