Our approach to inspections

During pharmacy inspections, our inspectors look for evidence that the pharmacy is meeting our standards for registered pharmacies [PDF 986 KB]. The purpose of these ‘outcome-focused’ standards is to create and maintain the right environment for the safe and effective practice of pharmacy.

Our inspections follow a ‘show and tell’ approach; our inspectors look at all the pharmacy services being provided and involve the whole pharmacy team in the inspection. Inspectors also speak to all the team to make sure they are aware that the way they work has an impact on the people that use and receive pharmacy services.

Watch our ‘All about inspection’ video for an introduction to what happens during an inspection.

Follow this link to access a transcript of our 'All about inspection' video [PDF 149.49 KB]

Our Pharmacy inspections website – inspections.pharmacyregulation.org

We publish reports from inspections that have taken place since 2019 on our pharmacy inspections website. You can also find short examples of excellent, good and poor practice in our knowledge hub

Updated approach to inspections: underpinning principles

In 2018, we consulted on developing our approach to regulating registered pharmacies. Following this consultation, our Council approved the following principles which underpin our updated approach to regulating registered pharmacies:

  • To be flexible, agile and responsive to the information we hold, intelligence we receive and issues we identify within pharmacy.
  • Inspections should reflect as closely as possible how patients and the public experience pharmacy services day to day.
  • The overall outcome of an inspection is clear and understandable to members of the public and enables pharmacy owners to be held to account against the standards.
  • All standards for registered pharmacies need to be met every day.
  • That the outcome of an inspection is open, transparent and accessible to members of the public (including where improvement action or regulatory enforcement action is required as a result).
  • That insights from inspection activities are accessible to everyone in the pharmacy sector.

Changes to our approach to inspections 

In 2019, we introduced a number of changes to how we inspect and regulate registered pharmacies based on these principles:

  • Changes to the types of inspections – we now use routine inspections and intelligence-led inspections, as well as carrying out themed reviews. Find out more about the types of inspections.
  • Moving to unannounced inspections as a general rule. This makes sure the outcomes of the inspection reflect whether the pharmacy is meeting the standards every day.
  • Changing inspection outcomes – there are two possible outcomes for an inspection overall (‘standards met’ or ‘standards not all met’), and four possible findings at the principle level (‘standards not all met’, ‘standards met’, ‘good practice’ and ‘excellent practice’). Find out more.
  • Requiring all standards to be met to receive an overall ‘standards met’ outcome – if any standard is found not to be met, this will result in a ‘standards not all met’ outcome overall.
  • Publishing inspection reports – and improvement action plans and enforcement action when relevant, on our inspections publication website. Follow this link to find out more about the publication of inspection reports.
  • Sharing examples of notable practice – anonymised short examples of excellent, good and poor practice identified through inspections are available in a ‘knowledge hub’ on the inspections publication website. This will help encourage continuous learning and improvement in pharmacy. 

From the start of June 2022, we are trying out a more proportionate risk-based approach to routine inspections, which will include inspections of a representative control sample of pharmacies on the register. Find out more on our ‘Different types of inspections’ page.