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Regulation in healthcare

Standards for pharmacy professionals modernised

GPhC proposals aim to reflect pharmacy professionals’ evolving roles and working practices.

Duncan Rudkin, chief executive of the General Pharmaceutical Council

Source: General Pharmaceutical Council

Duncan Rudkin, chief executive of the GPhC, says the new standards will be a “more overtly modern articulation of the standard of professionalism you would expect from healthcare professionals”

The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) has rewritten its standards for pharmacy professionals, with the aim of providing the regulatory framework required for the evolving roles and working practices of the profession.

The proposed standards will apply to all pharmacists and pharmacy technicians and replace the current standards of conduct, ethics and performance (see table: ‘Proposed and existing standards compared’).

“The [new] standards reflect the professionalism of pharmacists and pharmacy technicians and don’t try to tell them how to do their job,” says Duncan Rudkin, chief executive of the GPhC.

“What we are proposing is a set of standards which is a much more overtly modern articulation of the standard of professionalism you would expect from healthcare professionals generally, and some pharmacists and pharmacy technicians have taken their place in that field.”

No individual service or component of a service can work in isolation, Rudkin adds, which means team working and leadership is important for everybody.

“If you are a pharmacy technician working in a community pharmacy and you see something that is not safe and you put your head above the parapet by questioning something, then that is showing leadership and that is the kind of thing that we are looking to express here,” he explains.

Tension between professional responsibilities and organisational expectations for pharmacy employees means it is important to link the new professional standards with the standards set for owners “to make sure they articulate well together and support and reinforce each other”, Rudkin says. To ensure the two sets are aligned, the current standards for registered pharmacies, dating from 2012, will be revised with a consultation in 2016.

The GPhC is also planning to update supplementary guidance on certain issues covered by the standards, including raising concerns, consent, confidentiality, maintaining clear sexual boundaries, and the provision of pharmacy services affected by religious and moral beliefs.

Rudkin says it is important to “future proof” professional standards as much as possible, for example, with regard to assisted dying. “It is very important that if and when the law does change that pharmacists and pharmacy technicians know where they stand with respect to their professional obligations.”

He urges pharmacy professionals to respond to the GPhC’s consultation, which is open until 27 June 2016: “We want the product to be right and therefore need people to tell us if they think we have got it right or not, and if not exactly why not.”

Proposed standards compared with existing principles

Proposed new standards

Existing principles 

Pharmacy professionals must:

  • Provide person-centred care
  • Work in partnership with others
  • Communicate effectively
  • Maintain, develop and use their professional knowledge and skills
  • Exercise professional judgement
  • Behave in a professional manner
  • Respect and maintain the person’s privacy and confidentiality
  • Speak up when they have concerns or when things go wrong
  • Demonstrate effective leadership

Pharmacy professionals must: 

  • Make patients their first concern
  • Use professional judgement in the interests of patients and the public
  • Show respect for others
  • Encourage patients and the public to participate in decisions about their care
  • Develop their professional knowledge and competence
  • Be honest and trustworthy
  • Take responsibility for working practices


Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2016.20200953

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  • Duncan Rudkin, chief executive of the General Pharmaceutical Council

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