A proposal from the General Pharmaceutical Council to make pharmacy inspections unannounced has had varied responses, with some voicing support for the proposed change and others expressing concern.

The proposal formed one part of a GPhC consultation on the regulation of registered pharmacies. The regulator said it was seeking to develop its approach in order to assure patients, the public and the pharmacy sector that “registered pharmacies are meeting standards”, and to “continue driving improvement in the quality of services and care for the public”.

A GPhC spokesperson told PM that the regulator is currently "carefully considering" all responses to the consultation and will be publishing a report on this feedback to council "towards the end of the year".

RPS: Unannounced inspections reflect everyday practice

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society said it supported the proposal to make inspections unannounced, as this would help ensure that the regulator’s findings “reflect everyday practice”.

The RPS said inspectors should have powers to close pharmacies during inspections if visits occurred during a busy period or if going ahead with the inspection would “be dangerous or a risk to good service or patient care”.

The RPS commented: “The inspectors need to be aware during unannounced visits that the responsible pharmacists’ main priority will be patient safety and that they will need to concentrate on their pharmaceutical care and supervision duties and may not be able to commit the time to the inspection that it requires.”

The Pharmacy Law and Ethics Association (PLEA) also supported this proposal, saying in its response to the consultation that unannounced inspections would “reflect the experience patients and the public have on that particular day,” and could also limit “the opportunity to hide or disguise anything untoward”.

PSNC: "Unnecessary and undesirable"

Contrastingly, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee said that while it supported the GPhC’s “overall intention to move towards an inspection model more similar to that of the Care Quality Commission (CQC)”, its view was that making all inspections unannounced was “both unnecessary and undesirable”.

However, PSNC said, “in appropriate circumstances” unannounced visits could “help to establish patient confidence in the GPhC”.

Gordon Hockey, PSNC director of operations and support, said: “The proposal to introduce unannounced visits seem unnecessary and may not help to improve safety. Far better, we think for pharmacies to be able to plan their staffing around inspections, allowing them to be free to give the inspectors their full attention.”

 

The regulator's proposed changes

The GPhC consultation sought responses on six proposals:

  • Changes to the types of inspections
  • Moving to unannounced inspections
  • Changing inspection outcomes
  • Requiring all standards to be met to receive an overall ‘standards met’ outcome
  • Publishing inspection reports
  • Sharing examples of notable practice.

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