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General Pharmaceutical Council

GPhC maintains that staffing levels are best set by pharmacy owners

The pharmacy regulator has said it is neither “practicable or desirable” for it to change its view on whether it should set safe staffing levels for UK pharmacies.

The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) has reaffirmed its view that setting staffing levels is best done by those responsible for managing the pharmacy, according to papers discussed at its council meeting on 12 April 2018.

Instead, the regulator said its role was to ensure that pharmacy owners have taken account of all relevant factors in developing staffing plans and assessing whether staffing levels are sufficient for safe and effective pharmacy practice.

The GPhC’s view on staffing levels was questioned in a BBC documentary, broadcast on 8 January 2018, which focused on allegations of unsafe pharmacy staffing levels at high street chain Boots.

Criticism was also expressed in responses to the GPhC’s consultation on guidance for governing a safe and effective pharmacy team, held in July 2017.

“There were quite a lot of people who expressed views about staffing levels, with some arguing that we as the regulator should prescribe minimum staffing levels according to various formulae,” Duncan Rudkin, chief executive of the GPhC, told The Pharmaceutical Journal.

But he said the regulator had explained to the council, at its most recent meeting, why the GPhC did not feel it was “practicable or desirable” for it to change its view on the matter.

Although, he admitted it was clear that there was a demand for more guidance for pharmacy owners on how to manage staffing levels.

“This is one of the reasons [why] we are working on a guidance document that will stop short of an algorithm and say, if you do so many scripts you need so many staff at this level,” he explained.

“We will go [in] to more detail than we have in the past about the kind of factors that should be borne in mind, and what we will be looking for when we inspect a pharmacy, to check whether the staffing levels actually are adequate, both in terms of the theoretical plans and also the practicality of that on the ground.”

In a draft of the guidance, which is subject to council approval, the GPhC says the responsibilities of owners will include: developing a staffing plan to take account of the individual context of the pharmacy; ensuring each registered premises has a contingency plan for short- and long-term staff absence; ensuring that all members of the pharmacy team are aware of who they should contact within their individual pharmacy or wider organisation; ensuring all concerns raised are addressed; and making sure reasons for dispensing errors are assessed and appropriate remedial action taken.

According to the April meeting papers, the GPhC also hopes to implement a “robust inspection approach” to test how the guidance is implemented on the ground and ensure that pharmacy owners take action where standards are not met.

The draft guidance will return for consideration by the council in its May 2018 meeting.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2018.20204712

Readers' comments (1)

  • I have always maintained that errors made in Pharmacies are caused by the stress due to workload and insufficient staff to work efficiently, in short staff do not make mistakes they have them thrust upon them by their employers.
    The decision of the GPhC to leave staffing levels to employers to decide, is In my opinion, an abdication of the GPhC's duty of care to the public.
    The reality of the situation is that if an error is made, and investigated by GPhC who then decide that the staff levels at the time are considered inadequate, just how do they prove that in a court of law? because the levels are in fact arbitrary and merely a matter of opinion and the only legal fact is that an unfortunate member of the Pharmacy staff made an error and can be identified and be made responsible for the error.
    Where is the "Duty of care" to that member of staff?, who is also a member of the public.
    The term "Passing the Buck" springs to mind for by identifying a single individual employee as the culprit that protects both employer and GPhC. from bad publicity.
    I would welcome a response from GPhC on my observations.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

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