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European Union

Pharmacy regulator has nearly 3,500 European pharmacists on its register

It is unclear how the 3,500 pharmacists and 200 pharmacy technicians from the EEA working in the UK will be affected by the vote to leave the EU, the GPhC says.

There are 3,445 pharmacists and 215 pharmacy technicians in Great Britain from the European Economic Area (EEA) on the General Pharmaceutical Council’s register, the pharmacy regulator has revealed.

The EEA is made up of 28 member states of the European Union (EU) and three countries of the European Free Trade Association (Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway).

As of 1 June 2016, there were 51,980 pharmacists on the GPhC register, meaning EEA pharmacists comprise 6.6% of that total. In comparison, EEA pharmacy technicians make up 0.9% of the 23,121 technicians on the register.

The GPhC says it does not hold comprehensive figures on the nationalities of registrants, as the overwhelming majority do not self-report this. It also cannot say how many pharmacists who trained in the UK are working in the EU, “as we do not maintain figures on where registrants or former registrants are employed”.

Asked if the GPhC would aim to make sure that education and training standards for pharmacists are harmonised with EU requirements in the event that the UK leaves the EU, following the result of the EU referendum, a GPhC spokesperson said: “It is too early to say what, if any, are the implications of the vote to leave the EU for pharmacy regulation, including education and training requirements.”

The spokesperson adds: “Current arrangements, including for EU pharmacy professionals already registered or training in Britain, and for those seeking to register or train in Britain, remain in force. This will continue to be the position unless and until the law is changed.”

Brussels-based group the Pharmaceutical Group of the European Union (PGEU), which represents community pharmacy organisations in Europe, says it does not collect data on the number of pharmacists working in the UK from the EU, or vice versa.

“We regret [the] UK’s decision to leave [the] EU and as the first week goes by we understand that this may take years to happen,” says Jūratė Švarcaitė, PGEU’s secretary general.

The PGEU notes that the qualification and training of pharmacists in the EU is regulated in the Professional Qualifications Directive. “If an EU trained pharmacist wishes to establish himself or herself in the UK, she or he must register with the GPhC following [the] same procedure as a UK-trained pharmacist,” says Švarcaitė. “This Directive establishes minimum standards of training and to a certain extent harmonises pharmacy education.”

EEA pharmacists can register with the GPhC via two registration routes, the “automatic recognition” process and the “comparative assessment” process.

If an EEA national is recognised as being in good standing by the pharmacy regulator in their member state and has a recognised qualification then there are no education and training requirements. The recognised qualifications are listed in Directive 2005/36/EC.

“This is the main route for ‘compliant’ pharmacists and is known as ‘automatic recognition’,” the GPhC spokesperson says.

However, if an EEA pharmacist has been working as a pharmacist in a member state but does not meet the full requirements for automatic recognition, then they undergo a comparative assessment by the GPhC, which can result in additional training requirements. “This is done on a case by case basis,” the spokesperson adds.

  • This article was amended on 5 August 2016 to reflect that the General Pharmaceutical Council is the regulator of pharmacists and pharmacy technicians in Great Britain, not the UK as previously stated.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2016.20201400

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