Gary Choo, head of information services at Numark, explains how the new General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) standards will impact independents and how they can ensure they are consistently meeting them
Q: As an independent community pharmacist, I already prioritise the needs of my patients and provide person-centred care – do the new standards mean anything different for me?
A: The new standards introduced by the GPhC refl ect how modern-day public expectations and a digitally empowered society are transforming pharmacy practice. Essentially, the standards formalise and hold independent community pharmacists accountable for implementing best practice.
Placing person-centred care at the heart of these new standards is defi nitely a step forward, in terms of standardising safe and effective healthcare. This could, however, present some challenges – mainly due to a lack of resources to be able to deliver a high volume of services that could benefi t patients. Inadequate training could also pose diffi culties when pharmacists are expected to offer advice that may require specialist knowledge or expertise.
The standards also compel pharmacists to be pharmacists first, ie, provide a complete service independent of their personal beliefs. In the past, when a pharmacist’s beliefs would prevent them from providing a complete service, they would direct patients to an alternative pharmacy.
However, as pharmacists are expected to consider the new standards their legal duties, they could be held accountable for doing this going forward. Person-centred care is just one element of the revived standards. Independents also need to be mindful of the other factors that will set them apart in the industry.
For example, Standards 2 and 3 (working in partnership with others and communicating effectively) are primarily designed to support the NHS’s integration of pharmacists into clinical care. That being said, for community pharmacists, this is more about working collaboratively with local GPs and other healthcare professionals. Doing this provides independents with a good opportunity to demonstrate their importance within the NHS. On a more basic level, the standard around communicating effectively is also about adapting your approach to the needs of your patients.
Q: Do I, or my staff, need additional training to comply with the new standards?
A: While you, or your staff, may not need additional training to be able to comply with the new standards, you are personally responsible for meeting them, and therefore it is recommended that you ensure everyone is clear on what is expected.
Whether they receive formal training or not, it would be useful to discuss the new standards and the best ways of implementing them within your teams, if you haven’t done so already. The training element is accounted for by Standard 4: maintaining, developing and using our professional knowledge and skills. The newly proposed revalidation process is a signifi cant part of this as it could replace the CPD requirements for pharmacy, bringing our profession in line with GPs. This also means that you will need to keep track of you and your staff’s development activities to be able to demonstrate that your team’s knowledge and skills are fully up to date. It is also critical that you regularly monitor and assess the team’s practice, skills and knowledge.
One thing to bear in mind is that, while some of the standards will be relatively easy to implement for experienced community pharmacists, they could be challenging for newly qualifi ed pharmacists. For instance, Standard 5 advocates the use of professional judgement. This could include anything from determining what is best for the patient to managing complex legal and professional responsibilities. In such situations, newly qualifi ed pharmacists will need coaching on how to interpret the new standards. The standards do not list legal obligations, but do expect pharmacists to comply with the law in place for the different themes covered. There may be instances where you will have to make a professional judgement on whether standards are being met or not.
Q: Are there additional resources that can help my pharmacy meet the new standards?
A: The standards mainly focus on patient safety and maximising the chances of successful treatment. In addition to the GPhC, a number of regulatory bodies, including the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence and the Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network have published guidance on maintaining standards around patient care and working effectively with other healthcare professionals. Also, there are a number of experts within Numark who can advise on how to ensure standards are being consistently met.