The Department of Health (DoH) may be looking into permitting pharmacy technicians to supply prescription-only medicine in a bid to ease the burden on the NHS and improve services for patients.
Chemist + Druggist magazine revealed exclusively that it has seen proposals from the UK's four chief pharmaceutical officers that would mean a "registered pharmacy professional" would be able to "take responsibility for" the sale and supply of medication.
It said the DoH has accepted the proposal in principle and is now looking into "rebalancing" pharmacy legislation accordingly, with the documents reportedly marked "not for wider circulation".
Notes from the working group said such changes would optimise the mix of skills available in pharmacies and make more use of everyone on duty, particularly pharmacy technicians.
It may also mean that prescription-only medication would be available in more locations where patients need it, such as in hospital settings.
"As in hospitals, greater use will need to be made of registered pharmacy technicians, while pharmacists increasingly use their clinical skills to deliver support to patients in a range of settings, underpinned by more effective and efficient use of the whole pharmacy team," the document said.
If the changes did take place, responsible pharmacists would still be required to ensure the day-to-day running of pharmacies and new training would need to be brought in to upskill pharmacy technicians.
However, technicians would be able to dispense medicine and decide whether or not patients should receive their supplies in the pharmacist's absence.
Chemist + Druggist followed up their breaking news on this with questions to the DoH concerning whether or not Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt knew about these controversial proposals for pharmacy supervision. It has so far failed to confirm either way.
"We want to make the best use of every member of staff's skills in pharmacies. Any changes made to who can dispense medicines would always be properly consulted on and would never compromise the safety of patients," a DoH statement said.