A solution to the skill gap in pharmacy technical services

Those of us working in pharmacy technical services know how difficult recruitment can be. Most newly registered pharmacists choose clinical or community roles and we are left with the problem of where our future workforce will come from.

In 2013, a survey attempted to obtain some real data about pharmacy staffing, including technical services. It highlighted large numbers of pharmacists over the age of 50 years in the NHS Agenda for Change band 8C/D posts (now in the £56,104–£82,434 pay brackets). This seems to highlight the need to train more new people to move into these roles in the future.

The survey also identified a skill shortage of middle grade aseptic pharmacists, with 35.3% of respondents reporting that they had limited choice when it came to recruiting senior technical services pharmacists or managers, and 41.2% reporting the choice was limited when it came to recruiting senior aseptic technicians.

A review was carried out by the Modernising Pharmacy Careers and the Modernising Scientific Careers boards in 2012 to look at options for training a new workforce in this area, resulting in the development of the Clinical Pharmaceutical Sciences Scientific Training Programme (CPS STP) in 2013.

There are a number of advantages to this scheme. It offers a funded, structured training programme and draws from a pool of highly capable science graduates. Trainees are drawn from external recruitment or the existing staff pool. Pharmacy graduates, preregistration trainees, pharmacy technicians with relevant experience and qualifications and registered pharmacists are eligible to apply. At the end of the three years, the individual will become eligible for registration as a clinical scientist in pharmaceutical science.

The departments that have hosted the trainees are finding it a positive experience for both parties. One trainee has been involved in the complete update and restructuring of the North West Aseptic Stability database. This involved a complete review of in-house stability data to identify products for which a reallocation of shelf life was deemed appropriate, based on recommendations by the national guidance document ‘Standard protocol for deriving and assessment of stability’. The update also included the provision of additional information on photosensitivity of products and risk mitigation strategies for changes to centralised drug contracts. The revisions to the database were well received and the document is seen as an integral tool for aseptic managers in the north west and surrounding regions.

Another trainee has validated a method for caffeine detection in plasma, coupled with an assessment of the effects of caffeine and adenosine interaction on myocardial perfusion scans results. One third is attempting to establish an evidence base to support the introduction of Speedy Breedy (a new rapid micro device) as a microbial detection system for use with total parenteral nutrition bags prepared in hospital aseptics units.

However, in order for the scheme to succeed, training placements are needed. The prospect might seem burdensome — training people takes time. But the high calibre of the individuals involved means that departments who open up their doors to them reap many benefits.

More information is available at: http://www.nshcs.hee.nhs.uk/faqs/item/178-questions-about-the-clinical-pharmaceutical-sciences-stp 

Jilly Croasdale

Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust

Gill Risby

Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust

Bev Ellis

Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Maria Palmer

University of Bristol Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Alison Beaney

Newcastle Upon Tyne

Joanne Hayes

Stockport NHS Foundation Trust

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, July 2016, Vol 297, No 7891;297(7891):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2016.20201447

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