Raising concerns about pharmacy education and training

This web page tells you how to raise a concern about pharmacy education or training, how we will handle your concern and what you should consider before contacting us.

This covers education and training that the GPhC sets the requirements for, or for which it has quality assurance responsibilities.

It could include an accredited course or an approved pre-registration training placement.

Anyone can raise a concern about the quality of pharmacy education and training.

If you have any concerns relating to a pharmacist or pharmacy technician that could suggest there is a risk to patient safety or could affect the public’s confidence in pharmacy, you can raise your concern here.

If you have any concerns relating to pharmacy education or training, you should submit your concern on this form and save the document before editing. If you don't have Microsoft Word installed on your machine/device - click here.

What you should consider before contacting us

In this section you will find information relevant to raising a concern about education and training.

Contents:

  1. Quality assurance of courses
  2. Courses for pharmacists, quality assured by the GPhC
  3. Pharmacist pre-registration training
  4. Courses for pharmacy technicians, quality assured by the GPhC
  5. Courses for pharmacy support staff, quality assured by the GPhC
  6. What does the GPhC investigate?
  7. What doesn’t the GPhC investigate?
  8. What should I do before raising concerns with the GPhC about education and training?
  9. What information should I include when raising my concern about education and training?
  10. What happens once I've raised my concern with the GPhC?
  11. Will the GPhC consider anonymous concerns?
  12. I'm a staff member of the institution I'm concerned about. How will I be protected if I raise concerns about my own employer?
  13. What can happen as a result of my raising a concern?
  14. How will I know what's happening after I raise my concern?
  15. Does the GPhC investigate concerns about the fitness to practise of individual pharmacists or pharmacy technicians?

1. Quality assurance of courses

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Under the law, the GPhC has to quality assure courses that lead to registration as either a pharmacist or pharmacy technician, and courses that lead to pharmacists being annotated on our register as pharmacist prescribers. As well as quality assuring courses for pharmacists and pharmacy technicians, we quality assure courses for pharmacy support staff (although we do not register them). The terms we use for quality assuring courses are ‘accreditation’ and ‘recognition’.

2. Courses for pharmacists, quality assured by the GPhC

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  • Master of Pharmacy (MPharm) degrees
  • Overseas Pharmacists’ Assessment Programmes (OSPAPs)
  • Pharmacist prescribing programmes

See our pharmacist education and our pharmacist independent prescriber webpages for more information.

3. Pharmacist pre-registration training

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The GPhC sets a number of requirements for pharmacist pre-registration training that must be met throughout the training year. At the beginning of a training year we need to approve trainees, tutors, training premises and training plans in England and Wales. In Scotland this is done by NHS Education for Scotland.

The GPhC does not manage training in the pharmacist pre-registration scheme. You can find out more about our role in pharmacist pre-registration training in our Pre-registration training manual

We won’t usually investigate concerns about employment or contractual issues such as hours of work or employment contracts – as these should be raised directly with the employer – unless there are concerns about patient safety or the fitness to practise of a pharmacist or pharmacy technician. If you do have concerns about the fitness to practise of a pharmacist or pharmacy technician you can raise your concern here.

We will not usually consider concerns about the content of the four training progress reports written by tutors about their trainees during the pre-registration training year.

For more information about managing problems and raising concerns during pre-registration training, please see section 4.9 in the pre-registration manual.

4. Courses for pharmacy technicians, quality assured by the GPhC

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  • Level 3 National Vocational Qualifications in Pharmacy Services (Skills)
  • Level 3 National Vocational Qualifications in Pharmaceutical Science

See our pharmacy technician education webpage for more information.

5. Courses for pharmacy support staff, quality assured by the GPhC

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  • Level 2 National Vocational Qualifications for Dispensing Assistants
  • Level 2 National Vocational Qualifications for Medicines Counter Assistants

See pharmacy support staff education webpage for more information.

6. What does the GPhC investigate?

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The GPhC may investigate concerns about the quality of a pharmacy course or a training placement – especially if the way the education and training is delivered might present risks to patient safety.

7. What doesn’t the GPhC investigate?

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* The GPhC doesn’t investigate:

  • concerns about academic judgement, including marking, and passing or failing courses or modules
  • tuition fees and funding issues

* unless we need to, to make sure GPhC standards are upheld

We do not usually investigate concerns about individual members of staff, which are investigated by their employer. However, if the member of staff is a pharmacist or pharmacy technician and you have concerns about their fitness to practise, you can raise your concerns (or find out more about how we investigate fitness to practise concerns) here.

We do not investigate concerns about student fitness to practise and they should be raised directly with the course provider.

8. What should I do before raising concerns with the GPhC about education and training?

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Before contacting the GPhC, you should use the whistleblowing or concerns procedures operated by the education and training provider if you can. You should also consider whether it might be more appropriate to contact a different authority or party: for example, for courses run by universities, it may be more appropriate to contact the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education depending on the nature of your concern.

However, if the matter includes serious concerns about patient safety or the fitness to practise of a pharmacist or pharmacy technician, you should contact the GPhC immediately.​

9. What information should I include when raising my concern about education and training?

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You should include as much detail as possible. So that we can investigate your concern fully, we need:

  • your contact details
  • the name of the education or training provider involved
  • a summary of any incidents, issues and key facts
  • the details of any pharmacists or pharmacy technicians involved, and the details of other members of staff
  • details of all the other concerns or complaints procedures you have already gone through, as well as any findings, and
  • permission for us to send details of your concern to the education or training provider

We will not send your personal information to the provider, unless you ask us to. However, depending on the nature of your concern, the education or training provider may be able to identify you.

If you do not provide all the information above and give us your permission to contact the provider, we may not be able to fully consider and investigate your concern.

You should submit your concern on this form.

Click here if you don't have Microsoft Word installed on your machine/device and save the document before editing.

10. What happens once I've raised my concern with the GPhC?

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We will carry out an initial review to decide whether the concern should be investigated by our education team. If you are concerned about a pharmacist or pharmacy technician’s fitness to practise you can let us know here.

We will send details of your concern to the education or training provider, as long as you have given us permission to do this. We will ask them to respond to us, dealing with the concerns raised as fully as possible.

We may need to ask you and the provider for more information. We may also ask members of the GPhC’s accreditation and recognition panel and other GPhC staff for their opinion.

11. Will the GPhC consider anonymous concerns?

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Yes, but when we receive anonymous concerns we may not be able to take any further action as we may not have enough information. Depending on the issues raised, we may contact the education provider and give them the opportunity to respond.

We encourage everyone raising concerns to give their name and contact information. This is so that we can ask them for more information if we need to, and can keep them up to date about progress and the outcome – especially if we have told the provider to deal with the concerns raised.​

12. I'm a staff member of the institution I'm concerned about. How will I be protected if I raise concerns about my own employer?

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It is important that staff are encouraged to be candid and that they feel able to raise concerns: for example, about how education and training could present risks to patient care.

You should not be blamed or be worried about reprisals for highlighting potentially unacceptable practices or poor-quality care. Many employers will have a whistleblowing policy that explains how to raise concerns. As the regulator for pharmacy, we have published guidance on whistleblowing for pharmacists and pharmacy technicians.

The Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 protects workers who disclose information about  unacceptable practices at their workplace, or former workplace, as long as certain conditions are met. The conditions cover the nature of the information disclosed and the person to whom it is disclosed. If these conditions are met, the Act protects the worker from suffering as a result of having made the disclosure. There is also protection for people making disclosures to certain regulators, including the GPhC, and – in exceptional circumstances – wider disclosures (for example to an MP or the media).

For advice about the legal protections given to whistleblowers, you might wish to go to the website of Public Concern at Work, an independent charity that offers support and information to whistleblowers. Some professional membership organisations also give support and advice if you are considering raising a concern.

13. What can happen as a result of my raising a concern?

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Once our education team have finished their initial review, we will make a decision to:

  • take no further action because (1) there is not enough evidence for us to investigate; or (2) the concerns are not ones we can investigate – either because they are outside our jurisdiction or there is no case to answer. If this is the case, we will tell you at an early stage
  • take no further action if we have contacted an education provider and their answer has dealt with the issues raised
  • carry out further monitoring because it is clear that the education or training provider is failing to meet our standards, and we need to be sure that the issues raised will be dealt with appropriately now and in the future. The monitoring will be done through the GPhC’s education quality assurance processes
  • carry out a full quality assurance (QA) visit because there is evidence that the issues raised may have a serious or major adverse impact on patient safety

Dealing with concerns – the stages of the process

We may also decide that we need to refer the concerns to another area of the GPhC or to another body. Other bodies that we may refer concerns to include:

  • Health Education England
  • NHS Education Scotland
  • the Welsh Workforce, Education and Development Services
  • the Care Quality Commission
  • the Quality Assurance Agency
  • the General Medical Council
  • the General Dental Council
  • the Nursing and Midwifery Council

14. How will I know what's happening after I raise my concern?

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We will acknowledge your concern within 5 days if you email it to educationconcerns@pharmacyregulation.org.  We will keep you up to date on the progress of any investigations we carry out.

15. Does the GPhC investigate concerns about the fitness to practise of individual pharmacists or pharmacy technicians?

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Yes. You can see our procedures for raising concerns about an individual pharmacist or pharmacy technician here.