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Online pharmacists ‘forget what they learned in community’ says GPhC


Online pharmacists ‘forget what they learned in community’ says GPhC

Pharmacists who move from the community to an online pharmacy setting “seem to forget all the stuff that happened” in their previous job, giving rise to patient safety risks, the GPhC’s director of fitness to practise has told Pharmacy Network News.

Addressing the Sigma conference via videolink on March 6, Claire Bryce-Smith told delegates that “when pharmacy professionals work across different settings, they don’t always apply standards in different settings”.

Asked to elaborate, Ms Bryce-Smith explained there are persistent issues in the online sector, and that pharmacists “seem to forget all the stuff they did in community pharmacy settings, particularly when there is prescribing involved … [we see] people overprescribing or prescribing outside their scope of practice”.

Moreover, they fail to “stop and raise concerns” when they observe their online pharmacy employer engaging in potentially unsafe practices, Ms Bryce-Smith said.

The GPhC is “definitely seeing” greater utilisation of independent prescribers, including “a bunch of inexperienced” practitioners, she commented.

Giving an overview of the regulator’s work, she said that the number of pharmacists on the register continues to rise, reaching 61,615 UK-wide in February 2023, with IP annotated pharmacists reaching 15,175.

Pharmacy technician numbers are also increasing, but the number of registered pharmacies in the UK has declined from 14,455 in February 2016 to 13,807 in February 2023, with England taking the brunt of the closures.

The GPhC has documented a shift in pharmacy ownership, with the number of stores owned by businesses with 101-250 branches rising, while bigger multiples are seeing a drop in store numbers, said Ms Bryce-Smith.

She said that while “most pharmacies continue to meet our standards” there are ongoing concerns around online businesses, which account for a highly disproportionate amount of the regulator’s fitness to practise activity.

Asked by Avicenna chairman Salim Jetha whether the regulator has issued any breach or closure notices against online pharmacies in recent years, Ms Bryce-Smith replied that the GPhC doesn’t “have the power to close a pharmacy” but has issued around 70 enforcement notices placing restrictions on pharmacies licence, such as stopping them from prescribing certain medicines.

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