Listening and learning: our new programme of engagement events

In our Communication and engagement strategy 2022-27 we committed to increasing our engagement with all our stakeholders so we can listen to their views and experiences to inform our work and build our insights into key issues. To help us do this we are hosting a series of regional round-table events around Great Britain in 2023/24 and have established three forums of stakeholders who meet regularly throughout the year.

June 2023

Our first regional roundtable event

We hosted our first in-person regional roundtable event in London on 14 March 2023. We had the opportunity to hear from 40 pharmacy professionals and other stakeholders about the issues and topics that matter to them.

A wide range of topics were raised at our first event. These are summarised below, along with the actions that we are taking linked to some of these themes.

Our next regional roundtable event will be in Wales on Tuesday 4 July 2023 from 18:30-21:00 at Ramada Plaza by Wyndham Wrexham, Ellice Way, Wrexham, LL13 7YH

There were discussions on the evolving role of pharmacy, with the provision of more clinical services being seen an both an opportunity and a challenge. There was interest around developing areas in precision and personalised medicine such as genomics, 3D printing and other newly developing technologies and how new technology will change pharmacy in the future.

  • This is an exciting time as the role of pharmacy is rapidly evolving. Pharmacy teams and pharmacies are increasingly providing more clinical care and services to patients, playing a crucial role in alleviating pressures within the NHS and in social care, and in reducing the backlog. 
  • Pharmacy continues to change at pace, with a much broader range of clinical services being delivered in community pharmacy. As well as a much greater use of technology enabled models of service delivery, we are seeing more varied and complex business models and more services being offered online. 
  • We know that we need to be alert to these changes and ensure that regulation keeps pace to ensure patients and the public are protected and receive safe and effective pharmacy care.

Developing the regulation and inspection of online pharmacies was seen as a key focus for the future

  • There can be significant benefits for patients in using online services to get medicines and treatment but there are also significant risks that need to be managed to protect patient safety.
  • We are continuing to identify serious patient safety concerns in connection with some online pharmacies and online prescribing services, with more than 30% of open Fitness to Practise cases relating to online pharmacy (August 2022).
  • We are taking action in response to these patient safety concerns. We have taken enforcement action against over 65 online pharmacies since March 2019 after identifying patient safety issues during inspections. We have also taken action to restrict the registration of individual pharmacy professionals working for these services after identifying concerns about their practice.
  • We are continuing to develop our approach to inspections as well as sharing learning through our Knowledge Hub

Discussions covered leadership in the profession, with participants sharing that they would like more opportunities for networking and mentorship and for greater awareness of the diverse roles of pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and support staff. We also heard that pharmacists working in industry and regulatory roles would like more visibility and a greater emphasis on their sectors.

  • We have actively engaged with the work of the UK Commission on Pharmacy Professional Leadership, contributing to a number of meetings and discussions leading up to the report.
  • The commission’s report highlights key themes around leadership for both the pharmacy professions and for the public and patients that pharmacists and pharmacy technicians care for. As such we encourage pharmacy professionals to read the report and consider in more detail the themes it explores.
  • We will continue to plan to actively engage in whatever form the implementation phase takes, building on the contributions we made to the commission’s work. 
  • As part of our continued focus on equality, diversity and inclusion, we will be considering how we can better reflect the needs and experiences of those working in industry and regulatory roles.

Reforms to the initial education and training of pharmacists were seen as broadly positive. Some felt more could be done to explain the role of a newly qualified pharmacist, what it would be like and how they would be supported. And the limited number of places in industry for trainee pharmacists was raised.

  • Our standards for the initial education and training of pharmacists, published in 2021, introduced important changes to ensure pharmacists are equipped for their future roles.
  • The implementation of these standards will transform the education and training of pharmacists, so they are able to play a much greater role in providing clinical care to patients and the public from their first day on the register, including by prescribing medicines.
  • We are continuing to work closely with other organisations, our stakeholder forums and our Initial Education and Training for Pharmacists Advisory group to implement these changes.

Post-registration education and training was also an area participants expressed interest in, with a desire to see assurance of skills and knowledge across roles and sectors.

More pharmacists becoming independent prescribers was seen as a positive opportunity and of benefit to patients. There were questions about how independent prescribers might be fully utilised in community pharmacy. Challenges in finding a DPP (Designated Pharmacist Prescriber) or DMP (Designated Medical Prescriber) were also raised.

  • There is an increasing demand for more pharmacist independent prescribers from health services and patients. We have introduced some changes to the requirements for entry to an independent prescribing course to help met this demand and ensure that current and newly qualified pharmacists have the opportunity to become independent prescribers. 
  • Health Education England, NHS Education Scotland and Health Education and Improvement Wales all offer independent prescriber training. We are working with those statutory education bodies and with other partners to help make sure there is adequate supervision capacity (including designated prescribing practitioners) to supervise pharmacists undertaking independent prescriber training.

Participants told us they value communications from the GPhC including Regulate and emails on supplying and dispensing valproate safely. We were told people would like to see more short videos and events from us in the future.

  • We’re taking on board this feedback, developing our events programme for the coming year, along with reviewing the content of our newsletter Regulate. We’re also developing a new website and will be gathering feedback on its design from members our new stakeholder forums.

We heard about some of the challenges people are facing with workforce and system pressures, including the pressure long hours and not enough breaks have on individuals, the desire to have a modernised patient record systems with integrated software and access to patient data, and the challenges of medicines shortages and supply chain issues were also raised.

  • As well as being an exciting time for pharmacy, we also know it is a time of challenges too. We want to thank you all for your vital work during the pandemic and continued work to protect the public in challenging times.
  • We recently joined a roundtable on the impact of pharmacy workforce wellbeing on patient safety, hosted by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society and Pharmacist Support. The discussion explored the actions needed to support staff so they can continue providing safe and effective patient care and included representatives from the NHS, professional bodies, employers, trade unions, education and regulators.
  • A challenge for pharmacy professionals providing clinical care is that those working in community pharmacy and some other settings often do not have read/write access to patient records. We think access to patient records is important to patient safety and to help pharmacy professionals carry out a full clinical role - including when prescribing medicines.

Next steps 

We have been sharing the learning from our first roundtable with colleagues across the GPhC and will be holding future events to gather more views.

Launch of new stakeholder forums

Get involved!

You can sign up to receive news and update emails and to find out about opportunities to share your views and experiences with us, including by joining our future forums.

Complete our short get involved survey now 

This year we have launched three new stakeholder forums, where forum members share their experiences and suggest topics for discussion. We use what we hear through the forums to inform our planning and to check that the work we are doing takes into consideration the issues being raised by forum members.

Our first three forums, each made up of around 20 people who meet virtually four times a year, are for:

  • pre-registration trainee pharmacy technicians
  • pharmacy students and trainee pharmacists
  • patients and the public

We’ll be establishing forums for pharmacy technicians, for pharmacists, and for pharmacy owners in 2024.

At their first meetings in March 2023, students, trainees and pre-registration forum members shared their experiences of education and training or of using pharmacy services.

All forums discussed ideas on communications and resources the GPhC could develop to further support our stakeholders. Our next forum meetings will be in June and September 2023.

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