PDA concerned about GPhC lack of action

Can you think of an industry where problems are ALWAYS the fault of individuals working at the front-line and NEVER the fault of the organisation or because of policy set by the employer?

Mon 18th December 2017 The PDA

 

Although the GPhC has issued over 3,500 sanctions against individual registrants since 2010 (1,500+ of these in the last two financial years combined), the Pharmacists’ Defence Association is concerned it hasn’t used some of its powers enough, or at all.

Following a freedom of Information request the PDA is highlighting that the GPhC has never issued any sanction for a failure to comply with the standards for registered pharmacies (let alone initiated a fitness to practice hearing), because it hasn’t laid those standards before parliament in accordance with its legal duty.

Though the GPhC was established in 2010, it has never:

  • Fulfilled its legal obligation to set Standards for Registered Pharmacies in rules (which then have to be laid before parliament)
  • Issued an improvement notice to a pharmacy owner*
  • Brought a fitness to practise case against a registrant for a failure to comply with the Standards for Registered Pharmacies. (It confirmed that its focus, as far as individual registrants and standards are concerned, is on the Standards for Pharmacy Professionals)
  • Established a category in its fitness to practice database for recording allegations which relate to compliance with the Standards for Registered Pharmacies
  • Disqualified, removed, or sought to disqualify or remove, a pharmacy premises from the register (article 14 of the Pharmacy Order 2010 – failure to comply with an improvement notice, which could lead to a fine)
  • Sought or obtained a conviction against a pharmacy owner under articles 12 or 14 of the Pharmacy Order 2010 (failing to assist or obstructing an inspector, providing false or misleading information to an inspector, failing to produce a document or record to an inspector when requested to do so or failure to comply with an improvement notice)

* The GPhC has the power to issue improvement notices either for:

  • a failure to meet its Standards for Registered Pharmacies OR
  • a failure to meet the conditions of the pharmacy’s registration with the GPhC.

A breach of the standards for registered pharmacies could place many patients at risk. The inspectors have had their concerns; on 995 occasions in the last two financial years, they have identified serious issues that they wanted rectifying, where the standards haven’t been met.

A pharmacist might get a warning letter, conditions on their practice, a period of suspension or even removal from the register for not complying with GPhC standards, which would be published on the GPhC’s website. They might face a full investigation to determine whether the risk remains in the future. However, in relation to the shortcomings in registered pharmacies, the GPhC has simply asked pharmacy owners to put it right, in the form of an “action plan”. Safe in the knowledge that they won’t face a sanction, owners just have to confirm what actions have been taken. The PDA’s understanding is that this does not necessarily result in a further visit from the inspector.

As a result of the work of the Rebalancing Medicines Legislation and Pharmacy Regulation programme board, the Pharmacy (Premises Standards, Information Obligations, etc.) Order 2016 has been laid before parliament – but has not yet come in to force. When it does, the GPhC will no longer be required to set Standards for Registered Pharmacies in rules. Its powers to pursue fines for a failure to comply with an improvement notice (for a failure to meet the Standards for Registered Pharmacies) will be removed and this will instead be referred to a GPhC fitness to practise committee (an as-yet untested process for its Standards for Registered Pharmacies). The outcome will be an “all or nothing” approach; the premises will either be removed from the GPhC register altogether, or no action will be taken at all. The PDA’s view is that this will set a high bar for any action ever being taken against pharmacy owners for a breach of the premises standards.

The Rebalancing Medicines Legislation and Pharmacy Regulation programme board members include representatives of pharmacy businesses and the GPhC, but no dedicated representation of pharmacists as an interested group.

The Pharmacists' Defence Association is a company limited by guarantee. Registered in England; Company No 4746656.

The Pharmacists' Defence Association is an appointed representative in respect of insurance mediation activities only of
The Pharmacy Insurance Agency Limited which is registered in England and Wales under company number 2591975
and is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (Register No 307063)

The PDA Union is recognised by the Certification Officer as an independent trade union.

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