What happens during an inspection?

During pharmacy inspections, our inspectors will be looking for evidence to show that the standards for registered pharmacies [PDF 986 KB] are met. The whole pharmacy team will need to understand the standards and think about what examples they can give to show how they are meeting the standards and what supporting evidence they can provide.

Publishing inspection reports on our Pharmacy Inspections website

We have now launched our new pharmacy inspections website, where for the first time we are publishing inspection reports, as well as anonymised short examples of excellent, good and poor practice. To find out more visit: https://inspections.pharmacyregulation.org

Unannounced inspections

Inspections will now be unannounced as a general rule. This is because we believe it is important for us to inspect a pharmacy as patients and members of the public find it and to see how well a pharmacy is meeting our standards day to day.

We have identified some situations where it will not be possible to carry out an unannounced inspection, including pharmacies in secure environments and airports.

Inspections will generally take around three hours, but the length will vary depending upon the nature of the pharmacy and the focus of the inspection.

When a GPhC inspector arrives for an inspection they will show their identification and the Responsible Pharmacist should check this identification. Generally, inspections take place from 9am – 5pm, although a small number may take place later if the pharmacy opens later or over the weekend if there is good reason for this. If you are unsure whether the person is a GPhC inspector then you should get in touch with the GPhC contact centre on 0203 713 8000 - open Monday to Friday from 9am until 5pm. Outside of these office hours, you may wish to check the details of the inspector as outlined in the contact information for the inspection team [PDF 500 KB]. 

In situations where an inspector thinks that continuing an inspection may mean that patient safety may be put at risk, they will halt the inspection and resume it when it is safe to do so.

Meeting the standards for registered pharmacies

Responsibility for meeting pharmacy standards lies with pharmacy owners. However, we realise that the pharmacy owner or superintendent may not be in attendance when the inspection takes place. Where this is the case, we will still carry out our inspection, even if on that day the Responsible Pharmacist is a locum. This is because pharmacies must meet our standards every day.

What inspectors will look at during an inspection

During the inspection, the inspectors will continue to speak to the pharmacy team as a whole rather than just the owner, superintendent or Responsible Pharmacist.

Inspectors will not be looking for a standard set of documents or practices. Instead, the owner and superintendent, in collaboration with the pharmacy team, must provide evidence of how they meet the standards.

Watch our ‘All about inspection’ video for an introduction to what happens during an inspection.

Follow this link to access a transcript of our 'All about inspection' video [PDF 149.49 KB]

During an inspection our inspectors will gather and record evidence in a number of ways, including:

  • Looking at written or documentary evidence
  • Observing interactions with patients 
  • Asking questions and posing scenarios to staff 
  • Testing systems, processes and procedures

Inspectors will ask a range of questions to help them understand the context in which a pharmacy is operating and use a ‘show and tell’ approach.

The evidence collected by our inspectors will be used to assess whether a pharmacy has met all of the standards.

Our inspectors consider our Inspection Decision-Making Framework [PDF 613 KB] and the Inspection practice note 1: Minor non-compliance [PDF 450 KB] when assessing if a pharmacy has met all of the standards. The Decision-Making Framework is a guide to help support inspectors to make consistent decisions.

At the end of the inspection the inspector will go through their findings with the Responsible Pharmacist, who will be asked to confirm they have received feedback from the inspection. The Responsible Pharmacist has an opportunity to make any additional comments. This is important to show that the evidence recorded on the report is an accurate reflection of what the inspector saw and was shown on the day.

Pharmacies which have not met one or more of the standards will also be asked to complete an improvement action plan setting out what action they are planning to take to improve against those standards.