Chief pharmacist role should be mandatory, says RPS

The Guild of Healthcare Pharmacists has also raised concerns about the wellbeing of chief pharmacists, who it said face risk of burnout, in response to a consultation on draft standards for the role of chief pharmacists.
Photo of Nathan Burley, president of the Guild of Healthcare Pharmacists

In its response to a consultation from the pharmacy regulator, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) said that the chief pharmacist role at hospitals and in similar settings should be mandatory.

The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) published draft standards on the role of chief pharmacists in January 2024, after legislation came into force in December 2022 that removed the threat of criminal penalties for accidental or unintentional preparation and dispensing errors by pharmacy staff working in hospitals and similar settings.

To benefit from the defences, hospitals and similar bodies must have a chief pharmacist or equivalent in post, who must meet certain standards.

The draft standards outline the responsibilities and qualifications necessary for chief pharmacists to ensure safe and effective pharmacy services.

In its response, the RPS said organisations should not have the option to choose whether they have a chief pharmacist role. “It should be mandatory to ensure transparency for patients, the public and pharmacy staff,” the response said.

The RPS also said that the draft standards “may strengthen pharmacy governance, but they might not provide the framework to fully support staff in reporting and learning from errors”.

“The standards should emphasise creating an inclusive culture free from bullying and discrimination, with a zero-tolerance policy and celebration of diversity.”

Nathan Burley, president of the Guild of Healthcare Pharmacists (GHP), said the organisation’s own response would included concerns about the wellbeing of chief pharmacists.

An excerpt from its response to the consultation, shared with The Pharmaceutical Journal, said: “If the chief pharmacist is to have a duty of care for their staff, it is important that there is also a duty of care to the chief pharmacist. How does this framework tackle burnout at chief pharmacists level? The organisation should have a duty of care for the chief pharmacist as should the chief pharmaceutical officers.

“The recent RPS/Pharmacist Support wellbeing in workforce survey highlights around 90% of staff are at risk of burnout. The potential for burnout does not discriminate between different grades of staff.”

The GHP said it would share its formal consultation response in full at a later date.

The consultation closed on 16 April 2024 and the GPhC said it would consider responses at a meeting in summer 2024.

The regulator said it plans to launch further consultations over the next two years on rules and professional standards for responsible pharmacists, as well as professional standards for superintendent pharmacists.

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, April 2024, Vol 312, No 7984;312(7984)::DOI:10.1211/PJ.2024.1.309138

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