The Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) has launched a judicial review against the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) over its draft standards for pharmacy professionals, which the union has criticised in the past.
A line in the standards document says they “need to be met at all times, not only during working hours”, which has drawn the ire of the PDA, a not-for-profit organisation that works to improve the status and working environment for individual pharmacists, and appears to be the subject of the judicial review.
The PDA first criticised the draft standards’ tone and vocabulary in July 2016. “The wording of the new standards is reminiscent of the language used by large corporate employers and is somewhat Orwellian in nature,” it said.
The standards were approved by the GPhC’s council in October 2016 and are expected to take effect in 2017 and apply to both pharmacists and pharmacy technicians.
However, because the new standards are to apply to pharmacists at all times, the PDA believes that some of the requirements infringe an individual’s human rights.
Source: Pharmacists’ Defence Association
Mark Koziol, chair of the PDA, says: “We have no issue with the concept that certain behaviours outside of a working environment may be subject to regulatory action. However, if the standards are to apply at all times, they must be proportionate and appropriate.
“The new standards impose requirements about body language, tone of voice and politeness at all times, not only during working hours; they are a step too far and will be of concern to many pharmacists.”
He explained that the PDA made its views known to the GPhC in response to the standards consultation but that this did not result in a change to the standards. “This left the PDA with no option other than to challenge the GPhC in the courts,” he says.
Koziol adds that in relation to use of appropriate body language, tone of voice and politeness while outside of work, “the standards are such that they widen the scope of employers and the GPhC to use them as the basis to discipline pharmacists in the future. There is no question that they need to be challenged”.
A date for the hearing has been set for 23 March 2017 and will be held in the administrative court of the High Court in Birmingham.
Source: General Pharmaceutical Council
In a statement, Duncan Rudkin, chief executive of the GPhC, said: “The standards will have an important role in setting out what is expected of pharmacy professionals and it is right that they can be scrutinised and challenged before they come into effect.
“This judicial review of the standards relates to an important point of principle within health professional regulation. We are ready to respond to the judicial review and explain why pharmacy professionals should be expected to meet the standards at all times.”
According to the GPhC, the court has ordered that the hearing should be expedited and “rolled up”, meaning that if a judge decides to give permission for a full hearing, then it will immediately hear the case on that day.