Trade for prosperity

What a good pharmacy service looks like

How confident can you be in the safety and quality of care and services at your local pharmacy? We spoke to the man who runs the organisation that oversees standards in the country’s pharmacies, Duncan Rudkin, Chief Executive of the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC)

The GPhC regulates pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and pharmacies in Great Britain, and works to assure and improve standards of care for people using pharmacy services.

Mr Rudkin pointed out that, although pharmacies are all very different and meet different needs, what they should have in common is:

✚ Support with medicines and advice to help patients improve health and well-being

✚ Good communication and professional behaviour from the pharmacy team

✚ Good quality care that is in the patient’s best interests

✚ A clean and safe environment

✚ Any concerns from patients are listened to and acted on

✚ Privacy and confidentiality of patients are respected and protected

So, how confident can people be about the care and services they receive? Mr Rudkin said: “People will walk into an environment which is very different to a regular shop. The standards of care and quality of services are independently regulated.”

Patients will also talk to staff who have been trained and educated and are there to keep customers and patients safe. Pharmacists undergo a five-year training programme that includes practice-based training.

Setting the standards

The GPhC sets the standards for education and training of pharmacy staff and the standards that pharmacies have to meet for all aspects of their work. “We proactively communicate what the standards are and make sure they are lived up to,” said Mr Rudkin.

One way the GPhC does this is through inspections. Experienced pharmacists and pharmacy technicians visit pharmacies across the country – they receive no notice of these visits – to make sure that standards are being upheld.

Reports of these inspections are later publicly available on the GPhC’s website. The organisation also works with pharmacy teams on Continual Professional Development (making sure their skills remain up to date) and revalidation (pharmacy professionals must renew their registration annually, showing they are competent and fit to practise).

Where there is a significant departure from standards, there is a “very thorough process” by the GPhC to look into concerns, and the results are reported back to those who raised those concerns.

Accessibility is another key issue facing pharmacies. “For people to benefit from the care they need, they must be able to access it,” said Mr Rudkin.

This includes physical access – pharmacies need to comply with disability legislation. The ability to get hold of the right information is also very important and GPhC’s standards highlight the importance of communication. People have different communication needs, for example, those who are hard of hearing.

Raising concerns

What should you do if you have a concern about your pharmacy? Mr Rudkin suggested that, in the first instance, try to talk to your pharmacy, speak out and put your point of view.

But he admitted that sometimes this may not be appropriate and other ways of raising an issue might be better.

You can also visit the GPhC website at to find out more about how to raise a concern, or call 0203 713 8000.

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