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Language and the law


Language and the law

Sid Dajani, RPS-elected member of the Pharmaceutical Group of the European Union, discusses legislation around English language tests and emergency medicines

Previously, only pharmacists who qualified outside of the European Economic Area were required to demonstrate English language skills to work in the UK. But now, all European-qualified pharmacists have to complete the same English language tests as non-European pharmacists if they want to work in Britain, following proposals from the GPhC.

Following changes to the law in March last year, the GPhC has the power to enforce a minimum English language requirement on pharmacists who qualified in the European Economic Area (EEA) and want to practise in Britain. It also means any pharmacist who does not meet the language requirements could face fitness-to-practise proceedings.

Previously, pharmacists who qualified outside of the EEA had to pass the academic version of the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) test before registering with the GPhC. Under the new system, these requirements also apply to EEA-qualified pharmacists. Under the plans, a pharmacy degree completed in English, or two years practising in an English-speaking country, is acceptable evidence of English language skills. This will mean that pharmacists who qualified in countries such as Australia and New Zealand no longer have to sit the IELTS tests.

Regarding fitness to practise, if the GPhC receives an allegation that a pharmacist practising in Great Britain does not have the necessary language skills, the pharmacist will be required to complete the IELTS test.

Emergency medicines

The European Union is working on changing existing rules to make medicines such as adrenaline auto-injectors (eg, Epipens), glucacon, salbutamol and naloxone more widely available for use in emergencies for the purpose of saving life or reducing severe distress.

The full range of emergency medicines covered by the new regulations is:

  • Adrenaline auto-injectors – treatment of anaphylaxis
  • Glyceryl trinitrate – treatment of unstable angina
  • Salbutamol – asthma attacks
  • Glucagon – diabetic hypoglycaemia
  • Naloxone – opioid overdose
  • Entonox – management of severe pain when used by emergency rescue organisations such as mountain rescue teams.

Organisations such as colleges, workplaces and sports venues will be allowed to hold these medicines and arrange for staff to be trained in their use. The Pre-Hospital Emergency Care Council, which accredits paramedics, will be given the role of accrediting courses for lay people and these will be available in coming months.

Additionally, pharmacists will be able to supply and administer these medicines to individuals in emergency circumstances.

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