UK pharmacy regulator supports plans to test English language competency

Pharmacists from the European Economic Area will have to provide proof of their language skills to the regulator.

Pharmacists from the European Economic Area will have to provide proof of language skills to the pharmacy regulator to be able to work in the UK

The pharmacy regulator is backing UK government proposals that could see pharmacists, including UK nationals, brought before a fitness-to-practise (FtP) hearing if his or her lack of proficiency in English poses a risk to patients.

The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) is supporting the proposals that will mean that pharmacists from the European Economic Area will have to provide proof of their language skills to either the GPhC or the Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland if they want to register to practise in the UK. UK graduates will also have to supply information about their English language competency as part of their registration.

GPhC chief executive and registrar Duncan Rudkin says there are already some measures in place to ensure that language skills are up to scratch, such as the obligation a registered pharmacist has to ensure that staff have the right communication skills to do their jobs properly.

“An FtP hearing would be very much the last resort,” says Rudkin. “And from our own research there is nothing to indicate that there will be a vast number of cases.”

The GPhC is looking at the models employed by other regulators in the UK to demonstrate English language skills, including the model used by the General Medical Council. “We will need to get the balance right and will be looking at all the other regulators to find what is appropriate and proportionate in pharmacy,” says Rudkin.

Rudkin’s comments come nearly a month after England’s Department of Health launched its consultation on proposals to make English language competency a requirement of professional registration for all pharmacists in the UK.

The Department of Health wants the proposals — out for consultation until 15 December 2014 — approved before the next general election. If that happens it will then be up to regulators to come up with their own proposals for implementing the changes, which would apply to pharmacists and other health professionals working in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

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Citation
The Pharmaceutical Journal, December 2014;Online:DOI:10.1211/PJ.2014.20067310