Mixed reception for unannounced inspection proposal
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 aÂ GPhC consultationÂ 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 â€œregistered pharmacies are meeting standardsâ€, and to â€œcontinue driving improvement in the quality of services and care for the publicâ€.
The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) said it supported the proposal to make inspections unannounced, as this would help ensure that the regulatorâ€™s findings â€œreflect everyday practiceâ€.
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 â€œbe dangerous or a risk to good service or patient careâ€.
The RPS commented: â€œThe inspectors need to be aware during unannounced visits that the responsible pharmacistsâ€™ 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.â€
TheÂ 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 â€˜intelligenceâ€™ would spark an intelligence-led inspection.
Kate Livesey, Policy & Programmes Manager at theÂ CCAÂ said:Â â€œIt 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.Â 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.Â 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.Â
"Overall, we feel thatÂ 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.â€Â Â
However, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) said that while it supported the GPhCâ€™s â€œoverall intention to move towards an inspection model more similar to that of the Care Quality Commission (CQC)â€, its view was that making all inspections unannounced was â€œboth unnecessary and undesirableâ€.
However, PSNC said, â€œin appropriate circumstancesâ€ unannounced visits could â€œhelp to establish patient confidence in the GPhCâ€.
Gordon Hockey, PSNC director of operations and support, said: â€œThe 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.â€