Update on training pharmacy support personnel
The current pharmacist’s assistant qualifications end on 30 June 2018, with the last enrolment date being 30 June 2019. Learners enrolled for this qualification must complete the course by 30 June 2022, the end of the teach-out period. This is the policy of the Quality Council for Trade and Occupations (QCTO), and is supported by Council.
Council resolved that the training of the new pharmacy support personnel should incorporate two sub-frameworks:
- Higher Education Qualifications Sub-Framework (HEQSF)
- Occupational Qualifications Sub-Framework (OQSF)
The two new qualifications are the Occupational Certificate: Pharmacy Technician (OQSF) and the Diploma in Pharmacy Technical Support (HEQSF).
These qualifications were published for comment on 23 December 2016 and the comment period ended on 23 March 2017. Council established a task team to consider the comments and the task team’s recommendations were discussed by the Education Committee. Council approved the qualifications at its meeting on 12/13 July 2017. Both qualifications will lead to a person being registerable as a pharmacy technician. Learners wishing to enrol for either of the qualifications are required to have a matric certificate with mathematics and life sciences at NQF level 4.
It is a stipulation that all learners who complete the qualifications will be required to undergo an external integrated summative assessment, which will focus on the exit level outcomes, before being registered as a pharmacy technician with Council. This is a national assessment, which Council will conduct, and must be written by all learners who have completed either the occupational certificate or the diploma. In the case of the occupational certificate, the learner is required to pass the assessments at the end of each part qualification (i.e. basic, post basic and pharmacy technician).
Council resolved at its 12/13 October 2016 meeting that the national assessment will comprise two examinations: the first will be a two-hour paper consisting of calculations with a pass mark of 60%, and the second a two-hour paper consisting of general practice-based questions to assess practice competency with a pass mark of 50%. Learners will be allowed a maximum of three attempts to pass the examination.
It is important to note that both qualifications will certify the technician as a generalist. Below is a summary of each qualification.
1. Occupational certificate: pharmacy technician
This qualification will replace the current qualifications for pharmacist’s assistants and has part qualifications which are:
- basic pharmacist’s assistant
- post basic pharmacist’s assistant
- pharmacy technician.
Each part qualification is not sector specific, which means learners are required to gain experience in different sectors of pharmacy. There will be no traineeship after completing the national examinations, which will be held three times a year. Learners may choose to work in an approved pharmacy under an approved tutor for the entire duration of their learning, or opt to work the minimum period required for each part qualification, with their providers being responsible for ensuring they get the required work experience.
Each part qualification is explained briefly below.
1.1 Part Qualification: Basic Pharmacist’s Assistant
Learners may exit after completing the required six months of learning and obtain a Part Qualification: Pharmacist’s Assistant at NQF level 4. Learners will be required to complete a minimum of six months and a maximum of 12 months in order to obtain this part qualification. There is a minimum requirement of approximately two months of work-based learning required.
1.2 Part Qualification: Post Basic Pharmacist’s Assistant
Learners may, after completing the first part qualification, proceed to obtain Part Qualification: Pharmacist’s Assistant Post Basic at NQF level 5. Learners will be required to complete a minimum of 12 months and a maximum of 24 months in order to obtain this part qualification. There is a minimum requirement of approximately four months of work-based learning.
Holders of the current Pharmacist’s Assistant (Basic) qualification are required to write an external integrated assessment for the new basic level part qualification as an entry requirement to the Pharmacist’s Assistant (Post Basic) part of the new pharmacy technician qualification.
1.3 Part Qualification: Pharmacy Technician
Learners may, after completing the second part qualification, proceed to obtain the Occupational Certificate: Pharmacy Technician at NQF level 6. Learners will be required to complete a minimum of 18 months and a maximum of 36 months to obtain the certificate. There is a minimum requirement of approximately six months of work-based learning.
Holders of the current Pharmacist’s Assistant (Post Basic) qualification must write the external integrated assessment for the new post-basic level part qualification as an entry requirement to the pharmacy technician qualification.
2. Diploma in pharmacy technical support
This diploma provides the learner with another route to quality as a pharmacy technician. Unlike the OQSF occupational certificate, this course does not have part qualifications. The diploma also replaces the two current qualifications, those of the Higher Certificate: Pharmacy Support, and the Advanced Certificate: Pharmacy Technical Support.
Leaners are required to complete a minimum of two years undergraduate training and six months of traineeship at NQF level 6. Providers may offer this qualification as a full-time programme or through distance learning.
To be able to register with the South African Pharmacy Council as a pharmacy technician, the trainee will be required to write a national examination.
Accreditation for skills development providers
The new qualifications for pharmacy support personnel were approved by Council on 12/13 July 2017. However, the occupation certificate has to be registered with SAQA prior to it being offered by skills development providers. Council received information that the QCTO has approved the qualification and has referred it to SAQA for the registration process.
Council on 12/13 July 2017 resolved that accreditation for part qualifications be allowed during the introductory period of the qualification after which no provider will be accredited for part qualifications. The introductory period is five years from the time the qualification is registered with SAQA. The providers who apply for part qualification will be provisionally accredited with the condition that accreditation will be withdrawn if the provider does not get a full accreditation within the specified time-lines. The application for provisional accreditation must include the pharmacist’s assistant basic and post-basic qualifications and the provider must submit the rest of qualification within three years of the provisional accreditation.
Council on 12/13 July 2017 approved the criteria for accreditation/approval of multiple sites. Council is in a process of developing the accreditation/monitoring visit instrument and the criteria for accreditation/approval of multiple sites will be part of this instrument.