The superintendent pharmacist will take on responsibility for some of the activities that the responsible pharmacist (RP) is currently accountable for, under new proposals from the Government group that is reviewing pharmacy legislation, known as the Rebalancing Medicines Legislation and Pharmacy Regulation Programme Board.
Martin Astbury, President of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society and a member of the rebalancing board, told PJ Online that “the present law does not say much on the superintendent pharmacist’s roles and responsibilities, yet there is quite explicit law on this for the responsible pharmacist”.
“Under the rebalancing proposals, some responsibilities that sit with the RP role are moving to the superintendent pharmacist. For example, the appropriateness and the security of fixtures and fittings in a pharmacy and [responsibility for] ensuring there are appropriate numbers of staff employed at a pharmacy — these are areas that RPs have little power to influence.”
He said that an RP should be able to walk into the pharmacy in the morning and expect that the superintendent pharmacist has ensured that these provisions are put in place so that the pharmacy is fit to operate.
“It would avoid scary situations like, for example, if a locum walked into a pharmacy and found that a Controlled Drugs cabinet was not secured to the floor, but could not do anything about it. The RP would of course bring this to the attention of the superintendent pharmacist.”
When asked what an RP should do under the new proposals if he or she entered a pharmacy and found there were insufficient staff, Mr Astbury answered: “My hope would be that if the pharmacy was unsafe the RP would close it. The RP would then contact the superintendent pharmacist (or the superintendent pharmacist’s local representative) and discuss the matter. All issues would be on a case-by-case basis, but the responsibility for what has gone wrong there would be the responsibility of the superintendent pharmacist.”
The changes to the role of the superintendent pharmacist will be made through a Section 60 Order, he said, adding that a consultation will start on this soon.
Pharmacist absence: three-stage scrutiny
At a meeting of the partners’ forum (a group set up as a sounding board to the Government’s review) in December 2013, two proposals that would have allowed professional regulators to make changes to the roles and responsibilities of the RP, instead of ministers, were not given unanimous support.
Mr Astbury explained that the RPS has concerns about any changes that may lead to a reduction in the time pharmacists spend in the pharmacy and said that the RPS has been consistent in opposing any proposals that would result in changes in this area without a comprehensive consultation taking place.
“Such a consultation process after the rebalancing of legislation must be as robust as the present process under ministerial regulations. Under proposals put forward at the December stakeholder meeting of the rebalancing board this was not the case.” However, the RPS has now convinced the rebalancing board that a number of checks and balances are needed over the General Pharmaceutical Council’s new role in this area, using a three-stage process, he said.
Under the new proposals, the GPhC would have to consult on any proposed changes it made for the role of the RP before it introduced any rules. Additionally, in the area of RP absence, the GPhC would also be required to consult on the draft rules. And those rules would have to be approved by ministers and the Privy Council.
“Then a third stage would take place, with the use of a negative resolution statutory instrument process, which means the rules are put before the English and Scottish Parliaments, where they are [looked at]. Then if a single MP disagrees with them it will force a vote. We believe this brings in the highest level of scrutiny available for changes to GPhC rules,” said Mr Astbury.
A statement, issued by the Department of Health last week (20 March 2014) following the rebalancing board’s 3 March 2014 meeting, said that ministers have agreed to “robust scrutiny arrangements” for the GPhC RP rules, similar to those which already exist in respect of the Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland regulations. It said there will be a UK-wide public consultation on the proposals.
The original proposals have now been published on the rebalancing board’s website (see partners’ forum meeting papers, 6 December 2013). The board’s next meeting is due to take place on 15 May 2014.