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. It works to ensure that pharmacy regulation is responsive to, and reflective of, developments in England, Scotland and Wales, and collaborates with a wide range of professionals, regulatory and oversight bodies in all three countries to ensure safe and effective provision of 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.
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.
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 standards are being upheld.
Reports of these inspections are publicly available on the GPhC’s website. It 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, 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 patients’ communication needs.
If someone has a concern about their pharmacy, Mr Rudkin suggested that, in the first instance, they should try to talk to the pharmacy and put their point of view. Sometimes this may not be appropriate and other ways of raising an issue might be better.
Visit the GPhC website at pharmacyregulation.org to find out more about how to raise a concern, or call
0203 713 8000.
Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland
PSNI regulates pharmacists in Northern Ireland. It sets standards, holds a register, quality assures education and investigates complaints. It sets and promotes standards for pharmacists’ admission to the register and remaining on it. It handles concerns about the fitness to practise of registrants and takes any necessary action to protect the public.