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The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) has launched a major consultation on how it plans to develop its approach to regulating registered pharmacies, including considering a move to unannounced inspections. In what it descirbes as 'a significant step for the sector', the consultation also contains proposals to publish inspection reports for the first time.

At the launch of the consultation, Duncan Rudkin, Chief Executive of the GPhC, said: “Over the last five years we have made significant strides in how we regulate registered pharmacies. The independent evaluation we commissioned and the feedback we have received suggest our approach is working well.

“It is now time to reflect and build upon our current approach. We want to move to a more flexible and agile way of working so that we can more effectively respond to the changing needs of patients and the public and to changes in pharmacy.

“In the consultation we are proposing to publish inspection reports for the first time, which marks a significant change for pharmacy. We hope our proposals will strengthen the assurance we provide to the public that pharmacies are meeting standards and to drive continuous improvement in the quality of pharmacy services and care.

“We want to hear what people think about our proposals and what the impact could be so that we can get this right and achieve our aims.”

The GPhC is proposing the following key changes:

  • Changes to the types of inspections –the new model would include three types of inspection: routine inspections, intelligence-led inspections and themed inspections. This will help the GPhC to make sure it can be more agile and responsive to information it holds, intelligence it receives and issues it identifies within pharmacy.
  • Moving to unannounced inspections – as a general rule in the future. This will make sure the outcomes of the inspection reflect whether the pharmacy is meeting the standards every day.
  • Changing inspection outcomes –there would be two possible outcomes for an inspection overall (‘standards met’ or ‘standards not all met’), and four possible findings at the principle level (‘standards not all met’, ‘standards met’, ‘good practice’ and ‘excellent practice’).
  • Requiring all standards to be met to receive an overall ‘standards met’ outcome – if any standard was found not to be met, this would result in a ‘standards not all met’ outcome overall.
  • Publishing inspection reports – and improvement action plans when relevant, on a new website. This will be designed so that the information is easy to search and analyse.
  • Sharing examples of notable practice –examples of notable practice identified through inspections will be published in a ‘knowledge hub’ on the new website. This will help encourage continuous learning and improvement in pharmacy.

The GPhCs governing council will consider the responses to the consultation after it closes in August and expects to begin publishing inspection reports from the first part of 2019.

You can read the consultation document here.

Pharmacy support group Numark welcomed the GPhC's announcement.  

"The proposed introduction of intelligence led and themed inspections means there is likely to be a more intuitive and robust process which is in the best interests of the pharmacy team and patients.  Indeed their move to unannounced inspections will deliver transparency and much needed rigor from a pharmacy point of view and is an important step to driving standards that meet expectations of healthcare within local communities," its statement said.

Numark says it is working closely with the GPhC and "are very much part of the discussions to help shape the inspection process for the future".  

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