Self-selection of P medicines - not in the public interest!
The PDA is urging pharmacists to sign a petition against proposals that will allow the owners of pharmacies to display P medicines on self-selection.
In 2012, the GPhC undertook a consultation about the regulation of pharmacy premises. On one of its pages an incidental reference was made as to how medicines could be available on self-selection. Few respondents read deeply into this but those that did, like the PDA, concluded that P medicines on self-selection may be up for debate and submitted a very robust defence of the P category.
However, by far the vast majority of respondents understandably, did not spot this bombshell as they made no reference to it. Following the consultation the GPhC confirmed that it was going to move to outcome based regulation. Under this approach, the final outcomes would be set and the profession would be allowed to find its own way(s) of achieving them. The GPhC then argued that as a consequence, the prohibition of the sale of P medicines from open display should no longer apply. Instead, a decision on whether or not P medicines should be on self-selection should be made locally by owners or superintendents.
The GPhC stated that there were to be three pre-conditions:
The PDA's concerns
Almost immediately the PDA heard from alarmed members, with some reporting that their employers had already moved P medicines onto the open shelves. The PDA promptly raised its concerns with the GPhC. It is difficult to understand how a regulator whose main role was to protect the interests of the public could have made such a decision. The PDA requested copies of minutes of meetings and any policy papers that its Council had been considering and issued an urgent press release (www.thepda.org/pressrelease/pmeds) registering serious concerns.
The PDA and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society jointly held a meeting with officials from the GPhC to explain from a pharmacy practice point of view why this policy needed to be withdrawn. The GPhC however, refused to do so.
The 2012 GPhC consultation was about standards for registered pharmacies - not about P medicines on self-selection. It is not acceptable for the GPhC to reach conclusions on a matter of such fundamental importance through a consultation on a different matter. Consequently, the GPhC has been asked to hold a consultation on this specific matter allowing the profession to have a say. In 2007, when the then regulator; the RPSGB considered this matter, it held a consultation which lasted six weeks and which received hundreds of responses not only from pharmacists, but also from pharmacy and non-pharmacy organisations, other healthcare professions, patient representative organisations and individual patients. The majority of respondents were in favour of maintaining the current safety measures.
However, the GPhC officials explained that no such consultation would be held on this occasion.
The profession is now faced with the prospect of a new regulator that lacks expertise in pharmacy, proposing a fundamental change in practice despite formal protestations and warnings about patient safety from organisations that are steeped in pharmacy practice and risk management (PDA and RPS). Additionally it denies the public and practitioners - those that these changes will affect a consultation on this matter. These behaviours are a cause of great concern, they do not represent transparent modern regulation and these are questions that the regulator must answer.
PDA meets with pharmacists
In May, the PDA organised a series of engagement meetings in England, Scotland and Wales to gauge the extent of feeling amongst pharmacists and the results were unequivocal. Practicing pharmacists believe that the current arrangements represent an important cornerstone of pharmacy practice which, should it be removed would reduce the prospects for patient safety and make the pharmacists role of ensuring that the public get the right P medicines significantly more difficult to deliver.
There are many concerns about this proposal, including;
There are to name but a few.
What is going to be done?
The GPhC is at odds with many in the profession on a matter which is core to the profession's identity - that of guardian of the nation's medicines.
The recent PDA P-Medicines meetings held around the whole of the UK provided a rich vein of information from pharmacists and gave a good foundation of ideas upon which to build a robust campaign based on patient safety and public interest.
The full campaign to seek a change in the current GPhC policy will be developed in a stepped up fashion throughout 2013 and if necessary into 2014. This petition is just the start, but it is very important, and will be used amongst other measures in subsequent discussions with the GPhC, with its supervising body and ultimately in representations to Parliament.
The PDA is seeking a withdrawal of the current GPhC policy and we appeal to all pharmacists to sign the petition and encourage your colleagues to do likewise. We thank you for your support.