The pharmacy Rebalancing Board has no plans to add to its membership nor make changes to the way that it is looking at the supervision issue, the chair of the board, Ken Jarrold, has told The Pharmaceutical Journal in an exclusive interview.
But Jarrold, a health service manager, said he would welcome input from the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA), which in October 2017 announced plans to launch a campaign to ‘reclaim the supervision debate’ from the Rebalancing Board.
Jarrold accepted that the work on supervision was progressing slowly, but said that this was partly due to factors outside of the board’s control disrupting its work, including two general elections.
“We are also taking time to consider issues carefully and thoughtfully, including supporting quality systems, and we’re listening to all those involved,” he said.
Jarrold acknowledged that the issue of supervision aroused “considerable fears” from pharmacists. “Supervision is a very sensitive issue because it comes to the heart of what pharmacists feel about themselves and about the future, and that is why we have got to approach it carefully,” he said. “We recognise, understand and respect that, and that is why it is important that we get this right.”
Members of the Rebalancing Board did hold very differing views on supervision and how it should change, Jarrold confirmed. “That’s why we have taken time to stand back and consider all the issues, including supporting quality systems that will have to be considered around any changes that might be made in supervision.
“We do believe that we have been and are approaching our work conscientiously and inclusively. It is more important to get the sensitive and difficult issues right than it is to speed up, and we want to go on listening carefully to every member of the board. When we have proposals, we will take them to the partners’ forum, and we will continue to be transparent as we have always tried to be.”
The group, known formally as the ‘Rebalancing Medicines Legislation and Pharmacy Regulation Programme Board’ was asked to look at informing a more modern, risk-based regulatory approach to pharmacy that maintained safety, built in quality and maximised the skills of pharmacists and pharmacy technicians. It was also asked to address those aspects of professional regulation that impeded the deployment of modern technologies and put disproportionate or unnecessary obstacles in the way of new models of service delivery.
In September, a leaked document, prepared by a working group of the rebalancing board suggested that current legislation could be changed to allow a ‘registered pharmacy professional’, which could include a pharmacy technician, to ‘take responsibility for’ the sale and supply of pharmacy and prescription-only medicines.
The rebalancing board currently includes representatives of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) and General Pharmaceutical Council along with all four chief pharmaceutical officers, a representative from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency and other pharmacy stakeholders. It does not include representatives from the PDA or the National Pharmacy Association (NPA), and there are no plans to change this.
”The membership of the board was very carefully considered,” Jarrold said. “An additional community pharmacist — Raj Patel — recently joined the board following discussions that we had with the NPA, however it would be very difficult to include the NPA and the PDA and not to include other organisations who would have an equal claim and we have to keep the board to a manageable size because it is already very large.
Meanwhile, the Rebalancing Board would “welcome anything that the PDA does that prepares them to play a constructive part in the partners’ forum”, Jarrold said. However, he added: “It is difficult to see how the PDA could lead an inclusive debate involving all the organisations representing both pharmacist and pharmacy technicians. We think that is the board’s job.”
Any proposals developed would be shared with partners’ forum, which includes a wider group of stakeholders, Jarrold said.
Jarrold also confirmed that a new legal defence from inadvertent dispensing errors will be laid before Parliament before Christmas, “which is of real significance to community pharmacist and pharmacy technicians”.
Progress would be made on the issue in relation to hospital pharmacists next year, he said.
Commenting on the possible legislation on dispensing errors, RPS president, Ash Soni, said: “We will make sure there is a focus on ending automatic criminalisation of dispensing errors, the profession has been incredibly patient in waiting for this change, which is now long overdue.”