GPhC propose significant increase in premises registration fees



The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) is consulting on proposals to increase registration fees for pharmacy premises from £262 to £365.


In this consultation, the GPhC is seeking views on whether the fees paid by pharmacy owners should cover the full costs of regulating pharmacy premises.


The GPhC has said that the consultation marks the first phase of a wider review of the GPhC’s longer-term fees strategy, which will also consider areas such as longer fixed-term fees and flexible fee options (for those on parental leave, for example).


GPhC Chief Executive Duncan Rudkin said:


“We recognise the financial pressures that pharmacy owners are under and any uplift in fees is only proposed when necessary.


“Since 2013, we have introduced significant changes in how we regulate and inspect pharmacies, improving the effectiveness of our regulatory approach and bringing benefits to patients, the public and pharmacies. We are proposing this change now because we need a robust and sustainable financial framework with fees that reflect the true cost of regulation.


“We welcome views on our proposals.”


A spokesperson from the National Pharmacy Association commented:


“GPhC is proposing to levy a big percentage increase at a time when community pharmacy finances are already under immense pressure. We cannot possibly support such a steep increase in fees for pharmacy regulation.


“GPhC says it needs to cover its costs, however pharmacy contractors are bound to ask if the regulator is working as hard as pharmacies themselves to deliver efficiencies. We will now take soundings from NPA members and give our formal, detailed response to GPhC in March.”


The consultation on fees for pharmacy premises is open from 7 January to 31 March 2020. The first phase of the consultation runs from 7 January to 31 March 2020. If adopted, the new arrangements would come into place from October.



Pharmacy given £275,000 GDPR fine


A pharmacy has been fined £275,000 in the first use of fining powers under the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR).


The UK data protection regulator, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), has fined Doorstep Dispensaree Ltd £275,000 for failing to ensure the security of special category data.


The ICO investigated the pharmacy after it was alerted to the insecurely stored documents by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, which was carrying out a separate inquiry.


Doorstep Dispensaree Ltd, left some 500,000 documents relating to patients in unlocked containers at the back of its premises in Edgware. The documents included names, addresses, dates of birth, medical information, NHS numbers and prescription information.


You can read the full penalty notice below


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GPhC announce new training requirements for pharmacy support staff


The Council of the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) has agreed on new education and training requirements and learning outcomes for all pharmacy support roles.


The Council decided to introduce the new requirements after considering the feedback received from consultation and engagement with the pharmacy sector, pharmacy support staff, pharmacy professionals, members of the public and education and training providers.


In response to the feedback received, the Council agreed that the GPhC should continue to set requirements for the education and training of pharmacy support staff and to accredit courses.  The requirements will also now cover all support staff who have roles in:


  • Dispensing and supply of medicines and medical devices.
  • Advising on the use of medicines and medical devices.
  • Assisting in the provision of pharmacy services.


The previous requirements only covered medicines counter assistants and dispensing assistants.


The requirements, including the learning outcomes, have also been updated to make sure that they reflect developments in pharmacy practice and the workforce since they were first introduced in 2005. This includes core skills that all pharmacy support staff need to achieve, including communication skills for patient-centred care.


Alongside the requirements, a set of updated criteria for use in the accreditation of courses has also been developed.


At the meeting, the Council agreed on some amendments to the requirements which will now be made before the final requirements are published.


In 2020, the GPhC will set and communicate the date from which any new courses will need to meet the revised criteria for accreditation.


Duncan Rudkin, Chief Executive of the GPhC said:


“Pharmacy support staff play a very important role in providing pharmacy services to patients and the public. All members of the pharmacy team must have the education and training they need to undertake their important roles safely and effectively.


“I want to thank everyone who took part in our consultations and engagement on our proposals. We have made significant changes to our original proposals based on their feedback and look forward to implementing our new approach.”



GPhC outline five key areas to consider before prescribing



The Council of the GPhC has approved new guidance for pharmacist prescribers to ensure that they provide safe and effective care when prescribing.


The Guidance for pharmacist prescribers covers five key areas that pharmacist prescribers must consider in order to prescribe safely and effectively. These are:


  1. Taking responsibility for prescribing safely.
  2. Keeping up to date and prescribing within their level of competence.
  3. Working in partnership with other healthcare professionals and persons seeking care.
  4. Prescribing considerations and clinic judgement.
  5. Raising concerns.


In response to feedback from a public consultation earlier this year, the GPhC has made a number of changes to their initial proposals, including adding further examples of prescribing in different settings and strengthening the guidance in relation to online prescribing of high-risk medicines.


The guidance emphasises that pharmacist prescribers must be able to justify their decisions and use their professional judgement in the best interests of the person receiving care, in all contexts, for example when providing a pharmacy service online or when working as part of a multidisciplinary team in a hospital, or in a community mental health team.


The guidance also sets out when prescribers should consider whether any extra safeguards are needed, for example, when prescribing antibiotics online or medicines likely to be abused or misused such as opioids.


Included within the guidance are a range of key questions that prescribers should ask themselves when prescribing in order to ensure they are providing person-centred and safe and effective care. The GPhC has also included links to other sources of relevant information and guidance, including from other regulators.


As of 20 November 2019, there are 58,085 pharmacists on our register, of which 9,142 are also independent prescribers.


Duncan Rudkin, Chief Executive of the GPhC said:


“This new guidance comes at a time when we are seeing rapid growth in the number of pharmacist prescribers working across a variety of settings throughout Great Britain. We have seen the number of prescribers on our register double since 2016. This new guidance clearly outlines what they need to consider in order to provide safe and effective patient-centred care.


“Furthermore, the guidance sets out the responsibilities of organisations that employ pharmacist prescribers, including having risk management and governance arrangements in place to protect patient safety.”


You can read the new guidance here.


Crackdown on online pharmacy supply of high risk medicines



The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) has identified that some online pharmacies have supplied high-risk medicines including opiates and sedatives to patients without appropriate steps being taken by the pharmacy owner, prescriber, responsible pharmacist or other members of the team. It has been found that check to ensure that the medicine being prescribed and dispensed was clinically appropriate for the patient were not made.


These patient safety concerns were identified during recent pharmacy inspections which looked at whether online pharmacies were meeting the standards for registered pharmacies and following updated guidance published in April this year.


The updated guidance on providing pharmacy services at a distance made clear that some categories of medicines are not suitable to be supplied online unless further safeguards have been put in place to make sure they are clinically appropriate for patients. This includes medicines liable to abuse, overuse or misuse, or when there is a risk of addiction and ongoing monitoring is important, such as opiates and sedatives.


In response, the GPhC is taking enforcement and regulatory action where appropriate against the owners of these registered pharmacies, as well as individual pharmacy professionals involved in both the prescribing and supply of medicines where their conduct may have fallen short of professional standards. The GPhC are also taking forward Fitness to Practise investigations against a number of superintendent pharmacists, pharmacist independent prescribers and responsible pharmacists.


Improvement notices and conditions on a pharmacy’s registration have been imposed; for example, conditions restricting the supply of controlled drugs by the pharmacy.


The chief executive of the GPhC, Duncan Rudkin, has this week written to the owners of online pharmacies and asked them to provide information on the actions they have taken to follow the new guidance and make sure patients access pharmacy services online safely. This information will be used to proactively prioritise the GPhC’s inspection programme.


Duncan Rudkin, Chief Executive of the GPhC said:


“I want to reassure patients and the public that we are taking robust action against the small number of online pharmacies and pharmacy professionals who through their actions have put the safety of patients at risk. I have also written to online pharmacy owners to obtain details of how they are keeping patients safe online and following our guidance.


“I have made clear that pharmacy owners need to make sure that they have the right safeguards in place to make sure all medicines they supply are clinically appropriate for their patients.


“When prescribing and supplying high-risk medicines such as opioids, it is not acceptable to rely solely on information provided by the patient via an online questionnaire; the prescriber needs to take other steps such as consulting with the patient, reviewing medical records and contacting the patient’s GP, as outlined in regulatory standards and guidance. (1)


“Patient safety is our central focus, and we are continuing to work closely with other regulators involved in regulating online primary care services, governments and other stakeholders across Great Britain to improve the quality of care for patients online.”


(1) Prescribers are expected to follow relevant regulatory standards and guidance such as the GMC’s Good Medical Practice and the GMC’s guidance on prescribing. The GPhC is currently developing prescribing guidance for pharmacist independent prescribers.



GPhC to recruit three new council members


The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) has begun recruiting for three new council members, including two registered pharmacy professionals and one lay member of the public.


The recruitment campaign is seeking candidates from all sections of the community across Great Britain who can bring a wide range of knowledge, skills and experience to the Council. This must include one member who lives or works wholly or mainly in Scotland.


Candidates will need to meet the essential criteria for the role as outlined in the candidate pack, and the GPhC is particularly seeking candidates with one or more of the following experience:


  • Knowledge and/or experience of patient advocacy or the patient voice (Lay).
  • Clinical and/or prescribing skills in one or a range of settings (Registrant).
  • Experience of technology developments in healthcare (Lay or Registrant).
  • An understanding of academic and vocational education and training (Lay or Registrant).


Commenting on the recruitment of the new council members, Nigel Clarke, Chair of the GPhC said:


“This is an exciting time to join the GPhC Council. We have an ambitious programme of work ahead at this time of change for pharmacy, and as a Council we have an important strategic governance and assurance role to play.


“We value diversity and want to promote it on our Council.  It is vital that our Council members are drawn from the widest possible talent pools, bringing with them different life experiences, ideas and perspectives, to inform our discussions and decisions. We would encourage anyone who meets the criteria to apply, even if they have not held this type of role before.


“I also want to take this opportunity to thank our three outgoing council members for their significant contribution and dedication to improving pharmacy practice for patients and the public.”