Pharmacy technicians have come a long way since an 1815 act of parliament established the first ‘apothecary assistants’. They are now a recognised and regulated profession, will undergo revalidation and have their own leadership body.
Pharmacy Technician Day on Tuesday 16 October 2018 highlighted their essential role in the health service — a role that has radically expanded in recent years, from hospital dispensaries and community pharmacies to carrying out essential public health interventions in GP surgeries and care homes. Twitter was buzzing with pictures of celebrations around the country — a heartening sight for an oft underappreciated part of the pharmacy workforce.
This month, at The Pharmaceutical Journal, we have a special focus on pharmacy technicians’ careers, detailing the range of specialist skills they are providing. Helen Pinney outlines her work leading a pharmacy team that delivers prescription and medication services to GP surgeries and care homes in West London, while Lisa Smith details a typical day as a paediatric palliative care pharmacy technician at children’s hospices across Scotland. Meanwhile, Alison Hemsworth details her work at the heart of NHS England as assistant head of primary care for pharmacy and dispensing doctors, helping influence and shape healthcare policy.
These are just three examples of pharmacy technicians in the UK working hard to improve patient care and it is tremendously encouraging to see their enthusiasm and drive; however, like all pharmacy professionals, pharmacy technicians are not immune from the pressures on the sector.
A snapshot survey of over 230 pharmacy technicians, detailed in this month’s careers feature, shows that although pharmacy technicians are passionate about their profession, things are far from perfect. Most respondents did express a concerning level of job dissatisfaction, with 81% recommending their job to others; however, more than half (53%) said they had considered leaving the profession and 66% said they had considered leaving their current job in the past year. Pharmacy technicians say that lack of staff and funding act as barriers to them fulfilling their roles effectively. Perhaps not a surprising result, but nonetheless indicative of how the profession is feeling.
Pharmacists may not be able to fix all these problems, but perhaps there is something you can do. If you work with a pharmacy technician, consider whether or not they are undervalued in your area. Look them in the eye and tell them that you know they have a difficult job, but that you are grateful for the support they provide every day. If you are a pharmacy technician, you are in a profession that is going places and recognition must come soon.