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GPhC to start defining responsible pharmacist roles from December

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GPhC to start defining responsible pharmacist roles from December

The GPhC's London headquarters (iStock)

A new legislative order giving pharmacy regulators the power to define the role of responsible pharmacists has been approved by an advisory body to the King. 

The Pharmacy (Responsible Pharmacists, Superintendent Pharmacists etc.) Order 2022 has been approved by the privy council and is expected to come into force in December, the General Pharmaceutical Council announced this morning, adding that it will "begin engaging extensively" with patients and other stakeholders from that point.

The order, which amends existing legislation and was approved by the Department of Health and Social Care in April, transfers the power to “define the professional responsibilities” of responsible pharmacists and superintendents from politicians to the GPhC and Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland.

This will include deciding when it is acceptable for an RP to oversee more than one pharmacy. 

The legal changes met with fierce opposition when put to the sector in a 2018 consultation on “rebalancing” medicines legislation and pharmacy regulation, with 82 per cent of responses expressing disagreement.

The DHSC said many respondents were concerned the order could facilitate the remote supervision of pharmacies, thereby creating patient safety risks and exposing pharmacists to prosecution and regulatory sanctions.

Responding to these concerns in April this year, the DHSC said the order does not concern supervising pharmacists.

It said supervision “will be the subject of further consideration in the context of the work to make better use of the rich skill mix in pharmacy teams”.

The order was published alongside the Pharmacy (Preparation and Dispensing Errors – Hospital and Other Pharmacy Services) Order 2022, which offers pharmacists and pharmacy technicians working in hospitals and prisons in Great Britain protection from being prosecuted for a dispensing or assembly error as long as “certain preconditions are satisfied,” such as the presence of a chief pharmacist in the service in question.

GPhC: This will strengthen governance

GPhC chief Duncan Rudkin said: “These orders will enable the GPhC and PSNI to take forward important work to strengthen pharmacy governance. Once the orders come into force later this year, we will have new powers to define how the roles of the responsible pharmacist, superintendent pharmacist and chief pharmacist are fulfilled.

“We expect the strengthening of assurance around these critical roles to empower pharmacy professionals at a tie of great challenge and opportunity for the professions.

“Once the orders are commenced, which we expect to happen on 1 December 2022, we will begin engaging extensively with patients and the public, health professionals, the NHS and the wider health sector, to discuss the requirements and expectations around the roles of Responsible Pharmacists, Superintendent Pharmacists and Chief Pharmacists. 

“We are committed to listening carefully to all views expressed and considering what approach would best support safe and effective pharmacy care.

“We will then move onto drafting the rules and professional standards and will hold full public consultations to make sure that the rules and the standards reflect the views and needs of patients and the public, health professionals, the NHS and the wider health sector. We will be sharing further details about how the rules and standards will be developed after the orders are commenced.”

Trevor Patterson, chief executive of the PSNI, echoed these remarks, saying the order will create “greater flexibility in a rapidly evolving health service where patient safety is at the forefront”.

Mr Rudkin also welcomed the new legal protections for hospital and prison pharmacists, adding that the GPhC “strongly supports” extending it to other pharmacy professionals on the basis it will “increase the opportunities for pharmacy teams to learn from dispensing errors and reduce the possibility of them happening again, which is vital for patient safety”.

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