The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) has published draft standards for chief pharmacists in an effort to “strengthen pharmacy governance” and reduce the likelihood of preparation and dispensing errors.
The draft standards, published on 24 January 2024, follow new legislation that came into force in December 2022, removing 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 relevant settings must have a chief pharmacist or equivalent in post, who is a registered pharmacist with the appropriate skills, training and experience; and must meet certain standards.
The GPhC was empowered to set these standards for chief pharmacists, including describing their professional responsibilities.
“By producing new standards, we will clarify the role, responsibilities and accountability of chief pharmacists,” the draft standards say, adding that this in turn “will maintain and strengthen pharmacy governance”.
“Strengthening governance will create a framework where there is a smaller likelihood of preparation and dispensing errors, and a culture where staff feel able to report any errors and learn from them,” they add.
The draft standards set out the professional responsibilities of, and describe the knowledge, conduct and performance required by, a chief pharmacist or equivalent to support their organisation and its staff to deliver safe and effective pharmacy services.
The four standards include:
- Provide strategic and professional leadership;
- Develop a workforce with the right skills, knowledge and experience;
- Delegate responsibly and make sure there are clear lines of accountability;
- Maintain and strengthen governance to ensure safe and effective delivery of pharmacy services.
The standards are part of the GPhC’s wider programme of work to strengthen pharmacy governance, providing clarity around how pharmacies are organised and managed to help ensure patients and the public continue to receive safe and effective pharmacy care.
Aamer Safdar, chair of education for the Guild of Healthcare Pharmacists and a member of the GPhC council, told The Pharmaceutical Journal: “The fact that the draft standards for chief pharmacists remove the threat of criminal penalties for accidental or unintentional preparation and dispensing errors by pharmacy staff working in hospitals and similar settings is very welcome.
“This has been a thorn in the legislation for many years. The change allows chief pharmacists to deliver safe and effective pharmacy services without risk. As pharmacy is developing into newer areas, the inherent risk is now reduced for chief pharmacists and their teams.”
Duncan Rudkin, chief executive of the GPhC, said: “Our draft standards for chief pharmacists will complement our existing standards for all pharmacy professionals, strengthening assurance around these critical roles and empowering pharmacy professionals at a time of great challenge and opportunity for the professions.
“We are committed to listening carefully to all views expressed to make sure that the standards reflect the views and needs of patients and the public, health professionals, the NHS and the wider health sector.”
The consultation will close on 16 April 2024, after which the GPhC’s governing council will consider the responses at a meeting in summer 2024.
Further consultations will be held over the next two years on rules and professional standards for responsible pharmacists, as well as professional standards for superintendent pharmacists.