Patient safety must not be risked by unannounced pharmacy inspections, says RPS

In response to the General Pharmaceutical Council’s consultation on regulating pharmacy premises, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society said inspectors should be given the power to close a pharmacy during an inspection if it could “be dangerous or a risk to good service or patient care”.

Pharmacy interior shelves

Inspectors should be given the power to close pharmacies if patient care is put at risk during unannounced pharmacy inspections, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) has said.

The General Pharmaceutical Council’s (GPhC) consultation on developing its approach to regulating pharmacy premises includes the proposal that pharmacies should be inspected without prior warning.

In response, the RPS said: “The inspectors need to be aware during unannounced visits that the responsible pharmacists’ main priority will be patient safety and that they will need to concentrate on their pharmaceutical care and supervision duties and may not be able to commit the time to the inspection that it requires.”

The RPS backed unannounced inspections overall because the findings would “reflect every day practice”, but it said inspectors should be given the power to close a pharmacy during an inspection if the visit coincided with a busy period, or if continuing the inspection would “be dangerous or a risk to good service or patient care”.

The Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) also backed the move, arguing that it will give a more accurate picture of what goes on in the workplace and would prevent larger chains coaching staff on answers they should give during inspections.

But in its response to the pharmacy regulator’s consultation, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) opposed unannounced inspections, calling them “unnecessary and undesirable”.

Gordon Hockey, director of operations and support at the PSNC, said in a statement: “Unannounced visits in appropriate circumstances could help to establish patient confidence in the GPhC, but patient safety and learning, advice and improvement would be better improved by routine announced inspections (partly because workflows can be considered in advance and contractor representatives can be present for the inspection).”

All three organisations supported the proposals also contained in the GPhC’s consultation for inspection reports to be made publically available for the first time.

However, the RPS had concerns about the impact a negative report could have on the pharmacy team. It said: “A negative report could impact on some members of staff, including the pharmacist themselves, who are working very hard but are working under the constraints of a corporate body.

“There should be a greater focus on workplace pressures and the impact that these may have on the staff working in the pharmacy.”

There was also some concern about the wording of the inspection ratings proposed by the regulator.

The GPhC plans to give pharmacies a “standards met” or “not all standards met” rating following an inspection. There is also the option that they could be branded as offering “good” or “excellent” practice.

Hockey said in the PSNC statement: “Findings or gradings such as ‘excellent’ have greater potential to be used as ‘advertising’ than ‘learning’ and consideration should be given to whether all pharmacies will be inspected and within a reasonable timeframe, to give all pharmacies equal advertising opportunity.”

The GPhC consultation closed on 9 August 2018.

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, August 2018, Vol 301, No 7916;301(7916):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2018.20205312

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