Pharmacists and pharmacy technicians who qualified in the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland who want to practise in the UK now have to prove they have the necessary knowledge of the English language before they can register with the relevant professional regulator.
The move follows the introduction of the Health Care and Associated Professions (Knowledge of English) Order 2015, which came into force on 21 November 2016.
As part of the changes, the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC), the professional regulator for pharmacists and pharmacy technicians in Great Britain, has new powers to investigate any registrants’ fitness to practise on the grounds that their knowledge of English may pose a serious risk to patient safety.
Duncan Rudkin, chief executive of the GPhC, says: “These important changes to legislation will improve public protection by enabling us to introduce fair and proportionate language controls that apply to all registrants and applicants for registration.
“The changes to English language requirements will also provide further assurance to pharmacy service users that pharmacists and pharmacy technicians should be able to communicate with them.”
Rudkin points out, however, that, despite the new statutory requirement, it is still the responsibility of employers to check the language skills of any pharmacy professionals they employ.
Before the order was introduced, any pharmacist or technician who qualified in the EEA or Switzerland was entitled to register with the GPhC without the need for their English language skills to be checked.
The order, which also applies to pharmacists and pharmacy technicians who want to register with the Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland, also addresses the statutory requirements of pharmacy professionals and appropriate indemnity cover.
The changes also apply to dentists, midwives and nurses.