The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) is seeking new legal powers to use directed surveillance and covert human intelligence sources during investigations into serious concerns about registered pharmacies or pharmacy professionals.
The Office of Surveillance Commissioners has recommended that the GPhC should be given these new powers to conduct this type of surveillance where necessary.
The GPhC Council formally agreed at its April meeting that the GPhC should seek these powers.
A change in legislation would be required to enable these new powers under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) and so it is for government to decide whether to take forward this recommendation. Duncan Rudkin, the Chief Executive of the GPhC, has written to the Department of Health to express the GPhC’s support for these changes.
Mr Rudkin said:
“We want to make sure we have all the tools we need to carry out a thorough and proactive investigation into serious concerns, so that we can protect patients. That is why we are seeking these new powers to use covert surveillance where absolutely necessary and proportionate.
“If we were given these powers through a change to the law they would only be used where there was no other way to investigate serious concerns and in line with strict rules about how this type of surveillance can be used.”
Currently GPhC inspectors and investigators can only carry out overt test purchases; they are not allowed by law to use any covert methods. The Office of Surveillance Commissioners inspected the use of test purchases in January 2013 and gave a positive report.