A consultation on the General Pharmaceutical Council’s (GPhC) proposed approach to its regulation of registered pharmacies in the UK revealed large support among stakeholders for unannounced inspections and online publication of pharmacy inspection reports.

The 12-week consultation which sought views on the regulator’s planned changes to regulation and their potential impact on pharmacy users, owners and staff, garnered opinions through pre-consultation focus groups with patients, dialogue with key political figures via stakeholder events across the UK and a YouGov survey of 2,040 adults in the country.

The consultation survey also received 812 written responses.

The GPhC consulted on six proposals; the introduction of three types of inspection - routine, intelligence-led and themed; move to unannounced inspections as a general rule; changing the overall inspection outcomes to ‘standards met’ or ‘standards not all met’ and introducing four findings at a principle level; requiring all standards to be met to receive an overall ‘standards met’ outcome; publication of inspection reports and improvement action plans on a new website; and publication of notable practice in a knowledge hub on the website.

The consultation produced what the GPhC described as “general support for many of the areas covered in our consultation proposals” and “also areas of divergence in opinion.”

The majority of respondents to the consultation and YouGov survey supported unannounced inspections largely because they would prevent pharmacies from preparing for inspections and “eliminate the possibility of last-minute cover-ups.”

Unannounced inspections were also regarded as having the potential to uncover poor aspects such as low staffing levels which could put patient safety risk.

However, the GPhC said “a large” proportion of respondents felt unannounced inspections would be “unduly disruptive and stressful to the pharmacy team” and as a knock-on effect could endanger patient safety.

The majority of respondents also supported publication of inspection reports because of the increase in transparency that would bring, with many believing it would drive improvements in pharmacies.

Yet some thought publication could damage pharmacies’ reputations as well as the public’s trust in them to deliver high quality healthcare.

“Others commented on the potential for misuse of the information contained in the reports,” the GPhC said.

Other respondents said the public would not be interested in the reports. This, the regulator said, “was because they tended to choose pharmacies out of convenience, word-of-mouth, personal experience or because of the range of services provided.”

The majority of respondents agreed with three types of inspections and changes to the overall inspection outcome although most respondents providing free-text comments felt introducing ‘standards met’ or ‘standards not all met’ outcomes was “unclear, over-simplified and too black and white” and “failed to differentiate between minor and major issues.”

Most, however, agreed with plans for a new website and knowledge hub but were split on whether to support improvement action plans and if pharmacy owners should display their inspection outcomes in the pharmacy. That last proposal was heavily supported by YouGov survey respondents.

The majority of respondents to the consultation survey opposed plans for all standards to be met to receive an overall ‘standards met’ outcome – in contrast to most YouGov survey respondents who agreed.

 

Picture: aydinynr (iStock)

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