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The Pharmacy Supervision Debate


The Pharmacy Supervision Debate

What We Know So Far

The issue of supervision in pharmacies is never far from the headlines and the topic was aired again at last month‘s Pharmacy Show. With so many opinions out there, Quantum Pharmaceutical have gathered together ‘what we know so far.’

What is supervision in pharmacy?

Community pharmacies are responsible for ensuring that all medicines are dispensed safely and effectively. In the UK, all pharmaceutical services are undertaken or closely supervised by the pharmacist in charge. This is not the case in other countries. The UK government is looking internationally to countries that use a more flexible approach to pharmacies and who chose to give pharmacy employees (non pharmacists) more freedom. It is unclear at this point how this structure would work in the UK and the activities other staff members would be able to carry out.

What we know

The PDS (The Pharmacists‘ Defence Association) have reportedly been fighting the threat from the UK government for remote supervision since 2006. They argue that, ‘the plan to operate a pharmacy in the absence of a pharmacist is just not safe for patients, but like a weed in the garden, every time it‘s cut back it returns. The government has tried many times in the past to change the current arrangements but has never managed to make progress due to the vigorous resistance that it has faced.’ 1

In addition to the PDS, in August, contactors warned the Royal Pharmaceutical Society assembly candidates that, ‘many community pharmacies are extremely concerned’ that a Department of Health programme board plans to ‘empower pharmacy technicians to supervise pharmacies’ 2 as part of its strategy to rebalance pharmacy legislation.

Shortly after these comment were made health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, addressed concerns in a letter sent to Labour MP Hilary Benn. Mr Hunt said, ‘the government has not brought forward any proposals to allow pharmacy technicians to supervise pharmacies and that ‘discussions around the role of pharmacists in pharmacies are part of a wider strategy to support a more agile pharmacy workforce.’ 2

All of the opinions and comments to date reinforce the findings from the Centre of Pharmacy Workforce Studies, Manchester Pharmacy School 2013 into ‘supervision in community pharmacy’ 3. The full study can be found here and looks at what tasks may be deemed ‘safe’ and ‘unsafe’ if a reform was to take place. The latest development in supervision came last month when the chair of the Department of Health, Ken Jarrold revealed that the board are still in discussions and that plans to rebalance supervision will be shared once they have been firmed up. It is believed that a new legal defence from inadvertent dispensing errors will be laid before parliament “before Christmas”, Mr Jarrold said, with “similar provision for hospital settings” to follow in 2018.4

It is clear that further discussions need to take place before a conclusion can be met and that until this point supervision will remain firmly in the headlines. If you have any further information regarding the discussion of supervision please let us know by emailing


  1. PDA steps up fight against remote supervision [online] Viewed October 2017
  2. Hunt responds to concerns about pharmacy supervision plans [online] Viewed October 2017
  3. Supervision in Community Pharmacy [online] Viewed October 2017
  4. DH programme board chair responds to pharmacy supervision debate [online] Viewed October 2017