GPhC will decide exceptions to responsible pharmacist rules

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GPhC will decide exceptions to responsible pharmacist rules

The Government has announced it will change the law so that pharmacy regulators can decide the circumstances in which it is acceptable for a responsible pharmacist (RP) to oversee more than one pharmacy. 

The Department of Health and Social Care’s decision, which was made public yesterday via its response to a 2018 public consultation on “rebalancing” medicines legislation and pharmacy regulation, will see the powers transferred from Government ministers to the General Pharmaceutical Council and Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland. 

Outlining the rationale for the move, the DHSC said that it thought pharmacy practice matters “are more appropriately set by the pharmacy regulators and less by Government ministers”.

However, the proposal met with strong opposition; out of more than 450 responses, 82 per cent expressed disagreement with the proposal.

While the plans were supported by some pharmacy bodies, including the Company Chemists’ Association, the GPhC and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, the Pharmacists’ Defence Association and National Pharmacy Association rejected them. 

Summarising the opposition to the plans, the DHSC said : “It was felt that the proposal would lead to increased risks to patient safety, through not requiring there to be an RP present an in relation to enabling remote supervision, as well as this unfairly exposing pharmacists to criminal and civil prosecution and regulatory sanctions.”

Concerns around supervision were particularly acute, with the DHSC saying this was raised “repeatedly” in the responses, possibly due to a “coordinated campaign”.

Seeking to downplay concerns that the legislation changes could lead to remote supervision becoming normalised, the DHSC said that the proposals under consultation consult RPs and not supervising pharmacists, albeit that the two roles “may be undertaken by the same pharmacist at the same time”. 

“The current legislation and RP regulations already enable the RP to be absent from the pharmacy, albeit for a limited period,” it added, arguing that the consultation “did not raise proposals in relation to remote supervision” and that 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”.

Other respondents to the consultation were afraid that pharmacy regulators could not be “trusted to use this power effectively,” the DHSC noted, with respondents raising questions “as to how far [they] would take the exceptions”.

Some argued that a proposed requirement for regulators to consider the impact of rules and regulations on business costs was “inappropriate,” and that only patient safety should be considered.

While the GPhC has not yet commented on the planned legislation changes, in its response to the original 2018 consultation the regulator expressed its support: “We support proposals which taken as a package seek to provide a clear framework for the delivery of safe and effective pharmacy services, from organisational governance through to the day to day operation of a pharmacy.”

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