A woman wearing a protective face mask walks past a pharmacy in the centre of Liverpool on March 17, 2020. (Photo by PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images)

General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) today announced that it will be stopping routine inspections of pharmacies and producing inspection reports in light of the COVID-19 crisis.

The regulator said it will work differently and move on to a supportive role in carrying out its functions.

“If one of our inspectors contacts you on the phone or visits your pharmacy, it will be to discuss your plans and arrangements for the pandemic,” Duncan Rudkin, chief executive, said in a letter to pharmacy professionals and owners.

“Our inspectors will be answering queries and providing support to pharmacy owners, pharmacy professionals and teams.”

Rudkin said the GPhC will share best practices identified by its inspectors through its online knowledge hub and to other organisations.

He added that flexible regulatory standards will help pharmacists when they have to prioritise patient needs over rules.

“We recognise that in highly challenging circumstances, pharmacy professionals and teams may need to depart from established procedures in order to care for patients and people using health and social care services. Our regulatory standards are designed to be flexible and to provide a framework for decision-making in a wide range of situations,” he said.

Earlier in the day, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society has called for a change in law to minimise potential medicine shortages, by allowing community pharmacists “to use their professional judgement to help manage the supply of medicines without the bureaucracy that currently exists.”

Rudkin informed that the agency is preparing for issuing temporary registrations for pharmacists and pharmacy technicians, in case an emergency is declared, and will be contacting those who may be added to the temporary register later this week.

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