A proposal from the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) to make pharmacy inspections unannounced has received a mixed reception from the profession's national bodies, with some voicing support for the proposed change and others expressing concern.
The proposal formed one part of a GPhC consultation on the regulation of registered pharmacies. The regulator said it was seeking to develop its approach in order to assure patients, the public and the pharmacy sector that “registered pharmacies are meeting standards”, and to “continue driving improvement in the quality of services and care for the public”.
The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) said it supported the proposal to make inspections unannounced, as this would help ensure that the regulator’s findings “reflect everyday practice”.
The RPS said inspectors should have powers to close pharmacies during inspections if visits occurred during a busy period or if going ahead with the inspection would “be dangerous or a risk to good service or patient care”.
The RPS commented: “The inspectors need to be aware during unannounced visits that the responsible pharmacists’ main priority will be patient safety and that they will need to concentrate on their pharmaceutical care and supervision duties and may not be able to commit the time to the inspection that it requires.”
The Company Chemists Assocation (CCA) is generally supportive of the move towards unannounced inspections and the publication of inspection reports. However, its response raised concerns over whether the proposed binary inspection model would meet the needs of patients and drive improvement across the pharmacy sector and profession and what levels of ‘intelligence’ would spark an intelligence-led inspection.
Kate Livesey, Policy & Programmes Manager at the CCA said: “It is encouraging that the GPhC has continued to engage with relevant stakeholders and listen to feedback on their inspection model. Weunderstand that the model is designed to drive improvement, rather than solely provide assurance to the public. We absolutely welcome this intention, which is why we question the move from four to two inspection ratings."
"We believe a binary scale could have a significant negative impact on confidence in pharmacy. From the point of view of patients and the public, it fails to differentiate clearly between those pharmacies that are well below the expected standards and those which have had only minor transgressions.
"Overall, we feel that the terminology used by the CQC and OFSTED is more familiar to patients and the public, easier to understand, more aspirational for pharmacy teams and more likely to drive improvement across the sector.”
However, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) said that while it supported the GPhC’s “overall intention to move towards an inspection model more similar to that of the Care Quality Commission (CQC)”, its view was that making all inspections unannounced was “both unnecessary and undesirable”.
However, PSNC said, “in appropriate circumstances” unannounced visits could “help to establish patient confidence in the GPhC”.
Gordon Hockey, PSNC director of operations and support, said: “The proposal to introduce unannounced visits seem unnecessary and may not help to improve safety. Far better, we think for pharmacies to be able to plan their staffing around inspections, allowing them to be free to give the inspectors their full attention.”