Improving how we manage concerns

In the blog post for this edition Carole Auchterlonie, our Director of Fitness to Practise, sets out the how and why of our new approach to managing concerns.

October 2021

Our current approach to how we manage concerns about pharmacy professionals isn’t delivering for the public or professionals.

The way we investigate concerns about a professional’s fitness to practise can, at times, be adversarial and slow and it can often have an unintended adverse impact on the mental health and wellbeing of people involved. We know many perceive our approach to be punitive and find it difficult to engage with us. We need to be more person-centred in how we interact with the professionals, patients and families involved in a concern and do more to encourage a culture of openness and learning in pharmacy. We also need to better understand why we get a higher number of concerns about Black, Asian and minority ethnic professionals than we ought to expect statistically.

At the same time, we must continue to meet our main objective of protecting the public.

So, what are we doing to address these challenges?

In June this year, following an extensive consultation, our goverrning Council approved our revised approach in Managing concerns about pharmacy professionals: our strategy for change [PDF 156KB]. Guided by our 2030 vision and our commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion, our new strategy outlines a programme for change. It sets out how we will take prompt action to protect patients when needed, while at the same time promoting and encouraging a learning culture that allows pharmacy professionals to deal with any concerns and go back to practising in appropriate circumstances.

There will always be times when things go wrong that can’t be put right – for example, if someone has been reckless or done something deliberately. In those cases, we will always take swift regulatory action. But in many cases, pharmacy professionals can put things right by being open and honest about what happened, showing insight into what went wrong, and taking steps to improve their practice. If someone can demonstrate they’re safe to practise, we think they should have the opportunity to continue to do so. We’ll encourage more concerns to be resolved locally when appropriate, so that we only take forward the most serious cases to keep the public safe and maintain public confidence in the profession.

The strategy also focuses on how to make sure the decisions we make are fair and that we eliminate any discrimination or bias in decision-making. We’re changing the language we use and the way we communicate with people involved to humanise what can sometimes be a stressful process. And we have now launched our services promises  so people know what they can expect from us if they raise a concern or one is raised about them.

All these changes are within the limits of our existing legislation. To go further, we’re working with the government to set out how we can manage concerns in a modern, efficient and fair way through regulatory reform.

We’re committed to making our ambitions a reality for the benefit of everyone involved. We look forward to working with you to implement the strategy, and to ensure patients and the public receive better protection while being fair to pharmacy professionals.

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