Different types of inspections

Our inspection team carry out both routine inspections and intelligence-led inspections. We also undertake themed reviews, where we visit a range of pharmacies to look in detail at a particular theme. This enables us to use our resources in a more flexible way so that we can be more agile and responsive to information we hold, intelligence we receive and issues we identify within pharmacy.

Routine inspections

Routine pharmacy inspections are carried out using a ‘show and tell’ model where our inspectors talk to the whole pharmacy team. Our inspections are unannounced as a general rule.

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.

In developing this approach, we are using what we learnt from the COVID-19 pandemic. During the pandemic, we targeted our resources towards pharmacies that have previously not met all the standards, and pharmacies that have never been inspected, typically because these pharmacies first registered with us during the pandemic. 

We also introduced support calls to pharmacies to check how they were coping during the pandemic and to signpost pharmacy teams to resources that may help them deliver their services to patients and the public.

From June 2022, we will inspect a representative sample of 400 pharmacy inspections from pharmacies of different types and ownership sizes across Great Britain over a six-month period. We will then carry out a further 400 pharmacies over the following six months, so we will inspect 800 pharmacies in total.

This sample will act as a control, providing a snapshot of performance of the register across Great Britain and within each country. The insights from these inspections will help inform risk-based programmes of work and learning for the sector. 

Reports from these inspections will be published in the usual way on our pharmacy inspections website

We will be providing a further update towards the end of the year setting out what we have learned.

We will also continue to carry out other types of routine inspections, including re-inspections of pharmacies that have failed one or more standards after six months, and routine inspections of new pharmacies joining the register.

Intelligence-led inspections

We carry out intelligence-led inspections using information we receive from other people or organisations, including regulators, healthcare professionals and the public, as well as from journalists and the media. This means we are able to more rapidly deal with risks or concerns raised with us.

When deciding whether to carry out an intelligence-led inspection, we consider the scale and nature of any risk of harm to patients and members of the public, and where appropriate, the history of the pharmacy and any linked intelligence.

We may decide not to carry out an intelligence-led inspection, but instead the intelligence we receive may result in other forms of regulatory action, including providing guidance to the pharmacy or sharing the intelligence with another appropriate regulator or agency.

When we decide that we should carry out an intelligence-led inspection, we will determine whether to carry out a full inspection or a more targeted inspection where we only look at certain principles or standards.

We always adopt a proportionate and consistent approach to these inspections. We undertake intelligence-led inspections only on those cases where there are immediate risks to patients and people would expect us to act quickly. We inspect the pharmacy to understand the nature and extent of the risks, and, where appropriate, consider what action to take, including whether we need to use our enforcement powers.

Themed reviews

Themed reviews involve visiting a selection of pharmacies to focus on specific themes or issues in more depth, and then producing a report identifying learning and good practice that can be shared across the pharmacy sector

Our pilot themed review is currently underway and is looking at good clinical governance in a community pharmacy setting. We will shortly publish a report setting out what we have learnt from our pilot themed review.