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Regulation in healthcare

Pharmacy regulator confirms that it is still seeking surveillance powers

The pharmacy regulator has confirmed that it is still in discussions with the government over new surveillance powers to help it uncover illegal professional practice.

The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) said on 8 March 2016 that talks are still ongoing with the Home Office and Department of Health to enable its officers to be given surveillance powers that would allow them to covertly obtain information for the purpose of a specific investigation.

The GPhC’s comments followed the BBC’s Inside Out London programme, which updated viewers on 7 March 2016 about the outcome of its original exposé in 2012, which uncovered community pharmacists illegally selling prescription drugs to customers.

The exposé led to nine pharmacists facing GPhC fitness-to-practise hearings. Eight cases ended in recommendations for suspension or erasure from the register. One case is still going through the process and three appeals against the recommendations are pending.

A spokesperson for the GPhC confirmed it was still hoping to secure a change in the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act to give it new surveillance powers to use “during investigations into serious concerns about registered pharmacies or pharmacy professionals”.

They also confirmed that, although the discussions with the Home Office and Department of Health also focused on giving officers the power to use covert human intelligence sources – whereby a relationship is built with suspected offenders for covert purposes – that was not being pursued.

Duncan Rudkin, chief executive of the GPhC, praised the BBC investigation. “It uncovered unlawful and potentially dangerous prescription medicines sales, and helped the GPhC identify and remove unethical pharmacists from practice. As such, it has rendered a service to the public and the GPhC,” he says.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2016.20200839

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  • Duncan Rudkin, chief executive of the General Pharmaceutical Council

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