Pharmacy technicians in England will be able to take and record blood pressure tests, as well as deliver smoking cessation services, as part of changes to the specifications of the pharmacy hypertension case-finding service and the smoking cessation service in 2023.
In December 2022 — the most recent month for which data were available — there were 75,500 blood pressure checks carried out across 3,600 pharmacies through the NHS Community Pharmacy Blood Pressure Check Service, which launched in 2021.
The updated service specifications, which are due to be published by NHS England this year, state that a pharmacist, and now a pharmacy technician, will be able to measure blood pressure and provide follow-up advice, ambulatory monitoring or referral to GPs as required. It is intended to identify people aged over 40 years with unidentified high blood pressure.
Pharmacy technicians will now also be able to deliver consultations under the Smoking Cessation Service, which was commissioned as an advanced service in March 2022. More than 2,200 pharmacies signed up in the first two months of the service, but the most recent data, for December 2022, show that just 67 claims for smoking cessation consultations were made in that month.
The service is aimed to support discharged hospital patients who may have quit smoking in hospital but need help once they are out of that environment.
A spokesperson for the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee said the updates were a “very welcome development”, but added that “bigger and more immediate financial and operational challenges remain unresolved”.
“Regrettably, we have had to tell the NHS that there is currently no capacity to deliver any more services without additional funding. There is still a long way to go in easing the capacity burden on exhausted pharmacy teams.”
James Davies, director for England at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, said: ‘’We are delighted to see pharmacy technicians are now able to perform blood pressure checks as part of the Hypertension Case-Finding Service and deliver the Smoking Cessation Service. Pharmacy technicians, as registered professionals, play an integral part in helping patients make the most of their medicines.”
The changes follow several initiatives that expand the role of the pharmacy technician, including administering flu vaccines, COVID-19 vaccines, and taking part in discharge medicine reviews.