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General Pharmaceutical Council

Public supports unannounced pharmacy inspections, GPhC-commissioned poll finds

Poll also shows that 76% of individuals would support the publication of pharmacy inspection reports.

A YouGov poll of more than 2,000 people carried out for the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) found that 79% of people believed unannounced inspections of pharmacies would reassure the public that they offered safe and effective care. 

The poll was commissioned by the GPhC as part of its consultation on changing its approach to regulating registered pharmacies. The consultation, which ran from May 2018 to August 2018 and received 812 written responses, proposed six key changes in the regulator’s approach.

As well as unnanounced inspections, the GPhC proposed changing the overall inspection outcomes to ‘Standards met’, which requires all of the regulator’s standards for registered pharmacies to be met, or ‘Standards not all met’. It suggested introducing four possible gradings for each group of five principles that the GPhC sets — ‘Standards not all met’, ‘Standards met’, ‘Good practice’ and ‘Excellent practice’.

As detailed in its council meeting papers from 8 November 2018, the GPhC said it received general support for many of the areas covered in the consultation proposals, but it said the requirement for all pharmacies to meet all standards in order to receive a ‘Standards met’ outcome was met with disagreement.

When asked: “Do you think that not meeting one standard should result in the pharmacy receiving an overall outcome of ‘standards not all met’?”, more than 60% of organisations and 59% of individuals answered “no”. Many of those who provided comments with their answers said they thought it was unfair to use “the same broad brush for those failing one or the majority of the standards”.

Half of all organisations and 62% of individuals who responded to the consultation said they were in support of unannounced inspections and felt that pharmacies should be inspection-ready at all times, rather than preparing specifically in advance of an inspection. They said that unannounced inspections would eliminate the possibility of last-minute cover-ups and that they had the potential to uncover poor practices.

However, some respondents described unannounced inspections as “unduly disruptive” and “stressful” to the pharmacy team, potentially impacting on patient care and safety.

A significant change proposed by the GPhC was the introduction of the publication of inspection reports which are not currently published. While 66% of organisations and 64% of individuals were in support of the proposal, a number of respondents were of the opinion that publication might harm the reputation of pharmacies and undermine the public’s trust in pharmacy professionals, thus jeopardising the business. Others commented on the potential for misuse of the information contained in the reports.

A frequent comment relating to the publication of inspection reports was that the public would not be interested or affected by the findings, but the poll found that 76% of the public supported their publication. 

The GPhC said it would consider responses to the consultation and discuss its final proposals for regulating registered pharmacies at its council meeting in December 2018.

It said it expected to begin implementation of the agreed proposals at the beginning of 2019.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2018.20205717

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