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‘Consultation on draft standards for hospital chief pharmacists expected by early 2024,’ says Duncan Rudkin

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Work on standards for responsible and superintendent pharmacists, however, cannot begin until the government has made a decision on supervision

Duncan Rudkin, the CEO of the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhc) has highlighted the importance of strengthening pharmacy governance to provide clarity around how pharmacies are organised and managed.

This will ensure that patients and the public continue to receive safe and effective pharmacy care, he said while speaking at the annual Sigma Conference in London on Sunday (5 November).

According to him, there could be rules that outlined the essential roles and responsibilities of responsible pharmacists, and professional standards for responsible pharmacists, superintended pharmacists and chief pharmacists.

He also announced that the GPhC will be shortly launching a consultation to integrate a new set of standards for the statutory role of hospital chief pharmacists “which up until recently has never been recognised in law.” It is expected to be launched by early January 2024.

However, Duncan, emphasised that they cannot start the work on standards for responsible and superintendent pharmacists until they know the government plans in relation to supervision.

“Because of course, the responsible pharmacists’ regime, and the supervision regime are in many ways intertwined, and can’t certainly be looked at separately.

“So, our first order of business is to achieve standards. And as soon as we know where everything with regard to supervision, we’ll be moving on with superintendent, responsible pharmacy standards, and potentially new rules about responsible pharmacies,” he added.

Earlier this year, he revealed that the GPhC will have a senior pharmacy professional as a leader within their executive structure.

Health inequalities majorly driving the GPhC’s agenda

Health inequalities seen during the COVID pandemic played a huge part in driving GPhC’s agenda around equality, diversity and inclusion, according to Duncan.

Speaking further, the Pharmacy Regulation executive said that the key insight that sits right at the heart of their strategy of this agenda is that “inequality and discrimination are bad for people’s health.”

Therefore, it’s their responsibility to support the professionals and the sector they regulate to tackle inequality and discrimination.

To this end, the GPhC has been working on increasing the range of productive work and collaborating with other colleagues on this agenda.

The health regulator can’t control answers but can bring together people with different ideas and solutions to help tackle racism in pharmacy and inequalities associated with language barriers.

Duncan reminded the attendees at the Sigma Conference that the GPhC also publishes quality guidance for pharmacies “which is a tool to help pharmacy owners and pharmacy chains by the regulatory standards through the lens of equality.”

GPhC is still facing problems with timeliness

While the GPhC now has a “more strategic approach to pharmacy regulation” working with pharmacists and pharmacies, Duncan said, it still has a significant problem with timeliness in dealing with fitness-to-practise cases.

He said, “We have improved significantly in terms of two of the standards which we have previously struggled with where we’re doing better now, particularly issues around keeping people in touch with what’s going on in their cases, quality of our decision-making information and our record keeping.

“We have still got a significant problem with timeliness and we have a comprehensive action plan to deal with that.”

Sharing some of the key developments in the GPhC, Duncan said they have been changing its “capacity and capability internally” making sure that “regulation changes and evolves” as pharmacy teams’ “work changes.”

For this purpose, the GPhC has been recruiting a growing team of specialist inspectors, which include senior clinical advisers and prescribers who are currently working in pharmacy and also work part-time for the GPhC as inspectors “so they are able to support the inspection of a much wider range of clinical services including prescribing services.”

Towards the end of his speech, he revealed that starting in January 2024, the GPhC will have Roz Gittins as chief pharmacy officer and Dionne Spence as deputy registrar chief enforcement officer and deputy registrar.

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