New requirements for pharmacy professionals to demonstrate English language skills come into force

A new law comes into force today which introduces a requirement for all pharmacy professionals to provide evidence that they have the necessary skills in English language to practise safely and effectively.   

As a part of these changes, the GPhC will now be able to check that pharmacy professionals who qualified in the European Economic Area have the necessary knowledge of English.  Previously, if a pharmacy professional was a national of the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland, the GPhC could not check their English language skills before they joined the register.

The GPhC will also have new powers to investigate a registrant’s fitness to practise in cases where their knowledge of English may pose a serious risk to patient safety. 

The GPhC has published guidance setting out the evidence, information and documents required to prove a registrant has the requisite English skills to practise safely in Great Britain.

Duncan Rudkin, chief executive of the GPhC, said:

“These important changes to legislation will improve public protection by enabling us to introduce fair and proportionate language controls that apply to all registrants and applicants for registration. The changes to English language requirements will also provide further assurance to pharmacy service users that pharmacists and pharmacy technicians should be able to communicate with them.”

“We would emphasise however that employers are still responsible for checking the language skills of any pharmacy professionals they plan to employ.”

The new law also makes a number of changes to the existing requirement on registrants to have appropriate indemnity arrangements in place.  The law changes how the GPhC may ask registrants to declare the indemnity arrangements they have in place when they practise, and underscores that these arrangements must provide cover appropriate to the nature and extent of the risks involved in their practice.