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General Pharmaceutical Council

Annual report

Annual fitness to practise report
Annual accounts 2018-19


From our chair, Nigel Clarke, and our chief executive, Duncan Rudkin

Over the last year, we have started work to develop a 10-year vision for pharmacy regulation. It is clear to us that we will need to work differently over the next 10 years – in response to changes in pharmacy, in health and social care and in the wider environment in which we work.

External developments, including Brexit, could have a significant impact. Closer to home, we expect to see changes in our responsibilities, as the four UK health departments continue their work to rebalance medicines legislation and pharmacy regulation.

Pharmacy professionals and pharmacies are taking on new and greater roles in managing people’s health. One example of this is the big increase in the number of pharmacist prescribers on our register. This has more than doubled since 2016, and increased by 26% in 2018/19 alone. Governments and health systems across Great Britain have invested in a substantial number of new roles for pharmacist prescribers, including in general practice. 

But pharmacy professionals and pharmacies will only be able to successfully take on these changing roles and responsibilities if patients and the public have confidence in the care they will receive from them. The public want to know that every member of the pharmacy team has the right skills, knowledge and experience to give them safe and effective care, and that they are working in environments that enable and support them to achieve this.

This starts with making sure pharmacy professionals have the right education and training so they can confidently meet the future needs of patients and the public. To achieve this, we are continuing our programme of work to modernise the standards of education and training for the pharmacy team. 

During the year, we published new standards and a new framework for the initial education and training of pharmacist prescribers. And in the first quarter of 2019, we asked for views on significant changes to the initial education and training of pharmacists. 

We know that some of the proposals we put forward in our consultation on the initial education and training of pharmacists present a number of challenges, and may involve some difficult decisions. But we also believe it is the right time for us all to think innovatively about how education and training need to change so that the pharmacists of the future are fully equipped for the roles they will need to play. We will continue to work closely with all key stakeholders in the year ahead to find the best way forward.

We know that the public also want assurance that the pharmacy professionals on the register continue to have the necessary skills and knowledge throughout their careers. This is why we have introduced revalidation. In October 2018, the first group of pharmacists and pharmacy technicians submitted their revalidation records with their registration renewals. This is another significant milestone in enhancing the public’s confidence and trust that pharmacists and pharmacy technicians are maintaining, and continuing to improve, standards of practice. 

Our aim is for revalidation to be a key way for pharmacy professionals to reflect and learn, and so to continually improve the care people receive. This year we joined with the Royal Pharmaceutical Society and the Association of Pharmacy Technicians in the UK to publish a reflection and learning resource to support everyone across pharmacy to learn the lessons from the Gosport Independent Panel report.

The learning resource emphasises the need to reflect on and learn from what happened, to make sure that these failures in care are never repeated. We have encouraged pharmacy professionals to consider using it as a basis for the reflective account they must carry out as part of their revalidation activity.

A key focus in the last twelve months has been on developing our approach to regulating and inspecting registered pharmacies. Our new approach, agreed by our governing council in December 2018, includes a number of operational changes. These will help us to provide greater assurance to the public that pharmacy services are safe and effective, however they are organised and delivered.

Through the consultation we held, we heard that patients and the public support these significant changes, which include moving to unannounced inspections and making inspection reports public. 

We have also introduced new guidance for pharmacy owners. This sets out what they are expected to do to ensure a safe and effective pharmacy team and to make sure that both registered staff and pharmacy support staff are empowered and competent to safeguard the health, safety and wellbeing of patients and the public.

Looking forward, we expect the year ahead will be one of continued development and progress, as we aim to build on the work we have done so far and to define a longer-term vision for pharmacy regulation. 

We will make sure we are able to quickly respond to developments, so we can deliver improved outcomes for patients. 

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