The Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) has called an emergency meeting to discuss what it calls the “threat of remote supervision” of pharmacies.
The meeting is due to take place at the Pharmacy Show, which is being held at the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) in Birmingham on Sunday 8 October and Monday 9 October 2017.
A spokesperson for the PDA said a plan to “stop remote supervision” had been developed, which would be discussed with pharmacists at the meeting.
“The PDA has been fighting the threat of remote supervision since 2006. The plan to operate a pharmacy in the absence of a pharmacist is just not safe for the public,” the spokesperson said.
The decision follows the publication last week of a leaked document, prepared by a working group of the Department of Health’s Rebalancing Medicines Legislation and Pharmacy Regulation Programme Board, that suggested current legislation could be changed to allow a “registered pharmacy professional”, which could include a technician, to “take responsibility for” the sale and supply of pharmacy and prescription-only medicines.
PDA chairman Mark Koziol said the Rebalancing Committee’s discussions had been “kept away from the wider profession”.
He said a wider stakeholder group, the Partners Forum, on which the PDA has a seat, had been supposed to help inform the Rebalancing Board’s work but that no stakeholder group meeting had been held “for several years”.
“There has been a shocking and unacceptable lack of engagement and transparency shown by this committee, we are now being led to believe that even the Health Secretary did not know what they were discussing,” he added.
Earlier this month, the three national Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) boards jointly called for legal guarantees that a pharmacist will always undertake a clinical assessment or check, and that there must be no legal loopholes that can bypass this requirement.
The RPS Welsh, Scottish and English board chairs and the RPS President released an eight-point position statement on the role of registered technicians supervising the sale and supply of medicines, saying: “The RPS has made it very clear that access to a pharmacist and their ability to provide clinical assurance for safety in community pharmacies is absolutely essential.
“We do not want to see pharmacies run without pharmacists.”
The statement said the RPS believes a pharmacist should always be present in a pharmacy, apart from occasional short periods of time.
Community Pharmacy Scotland, which represents pharmacy owners in Scotland, released its own statement this month saying there should be greater “flexibility in supervision arrangements of community pharmacies”.
The statement said “professional judgement [should be] exercised in the safe supply of medicines from the pharmacy in the absence of a pharmacist”.
In August, health secretary Jeremy Hunt confirmed in a letter to Leeds Labour MP Hilary Benn that there were currently no plans to give pharmacy technicians the power to supervise a community pharmacy.
The organisers of the Pharmacy Show have agreed to host two sessions of the PDA’s emergency meeting on each day of the two-day event. The meetings will take place in the keynote theatre at the NEC in Birmingham at 5pm on Sunday, 8 October and 11.45am on Monday, 9 October. Anyone registered to attend the Pharmacy Show will be able to attend.