The value of pharmacy technicians in medication safety

The role of the Medication Safety Officer (MSO) was established by NHS England in 2014 to improve medication incident reporting and learning. The role has developed substantially over the past 10 years and MSOs are now key contributors to patient safety within their organisations.

To further promote medication safety, many Trusts have developed the role of specialist pharmacy technicians working with the MSO. This article celebrates the value of these individuals and highlights the breadth of their roles.

Reviewing data

Many pharmacy technicians’ responsibilities involve a review of the incidents reported on their Trust incident reporting systems. For example, James, a pharmacy technician based in Harrogate & District, reviews all incidents that have occurred each month to identify any themes. These are shared at a variety of safety groups where ideas and improvements can be used to help prevent incidents reoccurring. Liz, based in Scarborough, produces and presents a monthly medication incident report for her Trust Medication Safety Group and enjoys manipulating data to produce reports and present information in a user-friendly way. One example of this is producing quarterly reports for the Discharge improvement Group, which has supported the development of a checklist for issuing medication on discharge.

Collaboration and sharing

Collaborative working is key to improving medication safety. At Leeds Teaching Hospitals, Gail works closely with the nursing team to offer advice, introduce new ways of working, share learning, and build relationships with pharmacy. She manages the Patient Group Directions process and supports work relating to the safe and secure handling of medicines and controlled drugs, in addition to overseeing and managing anomalies from the Abusable Drugs investigational software system. Fiona is based in North Lincolnshire and Goole shares learning from medication incidents by producing a monthly Safer Medication Newsletter which highlights key learning points from incidents and MHRA Drug Safety Updates.

Raising awareness

At York Hospitals, Beth is excited to be improving the culture of medication safety. This year she is developing a programme of medication safety walk rounds to improve awareness of medication safety issues on wards and to encourage staff to raise new and existing concerns. She is also working on improvement projects including aiming to reduce missed doses of critical medicines by 20 percent. In the same hospital, Jack reviews complaints relating to medicines to identify any concerns or trends. A common theme relates to pain management, and Jack is a member of the Trust’s Pain Management Group. He also completes medication safety inductions for new pharmacy staff to raise awareness of the medication safety team, how to report a medication incident and signposts to previous learning. He also chairs the dispensary error monitoring group, ensuring any trends are reviewed and measures are put in place to prevent recurrence.

Improving governance

At Hull University Teaching Hospitals, Michelle is the pharmacy technician lead for Pharmacy Governance and helps to facilitate pharmacy governance and the Trust’s Safe Medication Practice Committee. She manages the risk register, chairs the Pharmacy intranet committee, and has presented at the National MSO network.

Immediate impacts

Whilst some pharmacy technicians like Gail and Michelle have been in place for several years, some organisations are only just starting to involve pharmacy technicians in medication safety. Jo, based at Doncaster and Bassetlaw, has only been in post for six months but has already been involved in a Dispensary Improvements Project, reviewing the labelling standards in consultation with all staff grades, linking with the evidence to support this, and looking at the workflow process within the dispensary.

Variety and growth

All the pharmacy technicians we spoke to told us they enjoy being able to make a difference to patient care. They highlight the benefits of working across different staff groups to improve engagement with medication safety and linking in with colleagues outside their organisation through the local and national networks. Working in medication safety gives pharmacy technicians a variety of knowledge and skills to support their development to higher posts. For example, at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, pharmacy technician Abigail is also the MSO for her organisation. (Watch out for the next article in the series to find out more about her role.)

What advice would these pharmacy technicians give to someone wanting to develop a career in medication safety?

Improving medication safety is complex, with medication being used across the healthcare system in all specialties, by many different professionals. It is important to understand and identify all key stakeholders and engage with them to successfully identify and implement positive, achievable, and sustainable changes. 

Grasp all opportunities to develop within this role. This could be liaising with the wider teams to complete collaborative work. Visiting neighbouring Trusts to shadow technicians in similar roles, joining safety networks to share learning, and complete any leadership training available to you. 

My role requires frequent use of software including Excel, Word and Visio. It is important to brush up on your IT skills so that the most challenging aspect of your role is improving safety, not struggling with IT.

Michelle, Hull University Teaching Hospitals

My tip is to be well organised and adaptive. No matter how well planned out your day is, if an incident arrives on your desk that needs your full attention, then you will have to be reactive, and this will take priority so you will need to be able to plan your other work around this.

James, Harrogate and District


With thanks to all the medication safety pharmacy technicians in the Yorkshire and Humber MSO network who contributed to this article:

  • Gail Briggs, Leeds Teaching Hospitals
  • Michelle Chick, Hull university teaching hospitals
  • Joanne Derx, Doncaster and Bassetlaw
  • Fiona Dunton, North Lincolnshire and Goole
  • Beth Laws, York Hospitals
  • Liz Macneish, Scarborough
  • Abigal Peckett, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals
  • James Stanton, Harrogate and District
  • Jack Varey, York Hospital

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the UKCPA or its members. We encourage readers to follow links and references to primary research papers and guidance.

Competing interest statement: 

The author declares: no support from any organisation for the submitted work; no financial relationships with any organisations that might have an interest in the submitted work in the previous three years; no other relationships or activities that could appear to have influenced the submitted work.


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