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Leading the way for pharmacy technicians in care homes

On the eve of the Pharmacy Technicians annual conference in Birmingham, two colleagues describe how training alongside pharmacists has empowered them to become pioneering patient-facing clinicians:

Improving health outcomes for patients in care homes is something we’ve been passionate about since we joined the NHS East Lancashire CCG Medicines Management Team.

Admittedly our initial knowledge within the diverse sector of social care was limited and we had both spent most of our pharmacy technician careers up to that point in secondary care settings and community pharmacy.

But in 2018, we joined the NHS England Medicines Optimisation in Care Homes (MOCH) scheme’s 18-month training pathway, for pharmacists and pharmacy technicians together, run by the Centre for Postgraduate Pharmacy Education in partnership with Health Education England and funded by the Pharmacy Integration Fund.

Little did we know that it would prove to be one of the most incredible journeys of our professional careers.

It has empowered us to influence change, improve patient safety, become leaders in our field, be integrated with the multidisciplinary team in primary care, and helped us deliver integrated care and inclusive cross-sector communications, both proven to improve patient outcomes.

Being pharmacy technicians for over three decades, we have witnessed the progression from being seen as a ‘ward top up’ role, checking the medicines stocks on the hospital ward, to the pioneering patient-facing roles we now undertake. It gives us enormous job satisfaction as we witness first-hand the tangible results that we and our team are helping to facilitate within the social care sector. The significant patient facing skills that we developed whilst working in community pharmacy and secondary care are still used on a daily basis and have been extremely transferable.

Our team now consists of four senior pharmacists, three pharmacists and two pharmacy technicians. We support over 90 care homes and have access to over 60 GP surgeries, working with GPs and practices, and a very wide range of other health professionals who are part of the community multidisciplinary team approach.

The expert training sessions on the MOCH course have been truly inspirational; not only have we increased our clinical knowledge beyond our expectations, we have also been given the skills to approach, evaluate and strategically manage complex situations that can arise within the care home setting. CPPE has supported us tremendously through this journey and we are really keen to promote the excellent resources and training that continue to grow on www.cppe.ac.uk

Patients have always been the centre of our work but, as an example, our patient-centred medication reviews are now much more holistic – we no longer simply focus on the medications, but look to improve the patient’s overall wellbeing. This could be something as simple as supporting a patient with what matters to them (e.g. missing hearing aid batteries), to helping to ensure accurate care plans are in place, including support around nutrition and hydration, or supporting patients to self-administer their own medication.

Our enhanced skills now offer residents a high quality service, from production of individually-tailored medicines management action plans, triage of patients for pharmacy technician or pharmacist medication review (which involves us assessing factors such as the level of multiple medicines use, medicines compliance issues, risk of falls, swallowing difficulties and risk of hospital admission), to providing medicines awareness training sessions for carers and inhaler training.

Pharmacy technicians are in an excellent position to influence change in any sector and now has never been a better time as our role expands in primary care. Let us all create a vision, lead by example, build relationships, be innovative, take ownership and keep motivated when the journey seems long.

For us, this has resulted in more job satisfaction than we could have ever imagined.

  • The Pharmacy technicians Annual Conference is being held on September 13 and 14 in Birmingham.
  • Among the speakers will be Richard Cattell, Deputy Chief Pharmaceutical Officer and Alison Hemsworth, policy lead , who will examine the NHS Long Term Plan and what it means for pharmacy technicians; and Wasim Baqir  will lead a clinical pharmacy and PCNs presentation and workshop.
Jane Shanahan

Jane Shanahan has worked for NHS East Lancashire CCG as a medicines management care home technician for the last five years. She is currently participating in NHS England’s Medicines Optimisation in Care Homes programme.

Qualifying as a pharmacy technician in 1986, Jane’s early career began in community pharmacy. She made the transition to secondary care in 1994, gaining experience in multiple acute hospitals and specialities, qualifying as a prescription accuracy checker in 2006. Jane became an NVQ assessor in 2013, supporting pre-registration technicians.

Alison Marshall

Alison Marshall has worked for NHS East Lancashire CCG as a medicines management care home technician for the last 10 years. She is currently participating in NHS England’s Medicines Optimisation in Care Homes programme.

Qualifying as a pharmacy technician in 1987, Alison’s early career started in community pharmacy. In 1992 she began working in secondary care, where she undertook technical responsibilities at ward level, gaining experience in the different specialities on the wards. She qualified as a prescription accuracy checker in 2008. In 2011 Alison graduated with a FdSc degree in Medicines Management and Pharmacy Services at Huddersfield University with a distinction and was winner of the Chancellor’s Prize.

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  1. Carmel Copeland says:

    What an impressive journey and example of what our technicians can do and have to offer within patient care. I had the privilege of training alongside Jane and Alison on the MOCH course and their enthusiasm and willingness to extend the role of the clinical pharmacy technician within the care home service has been inspirational.