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Our approach to inspections

During pharmacy inspections, our inspectors look for evidence that the pharmacy is meeting our standards for registered pharmacies.

The purpose of these standards is to create and maintain the right environment for the safe and effective practice of pharmacy.

Following the introduction of these ‘outcome-focused’ standards in 2012, we developed and implemented a new approach to inspection in 2013. An independent study we commissioned has found that there is consensus among pharmacy professionals that the approach is working well and inspections of pharmacies in Great Britain are helping to improve patient safety and the services pharmacies offer to patients and the public.

Since then, our inspections have been based on 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 of the standards, and how the way they work has an impact on the services provided and on the people that use and receive pharmacy services.

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.

These principles build on essential aspects of the previous approach introduced in 2013, as well as incorporating feedback from our consultation.

Based on these principles, we are making a number of operational changes to how we inspect registered pharmacies.

Changes to our approach to inspections 

We are introducing a number of changes to how we inspect and regulate registered pharmacies in 2019, including:

  • Changes to the types of inspections – we will now use three types of inspection: routine inspections, intelligence-led inspections and themed inspections. Find out more about the types of inspections.
  • Moving to unannounced inspections as a general rule. This will make sure the outcomes of the inspection reflect whether the pharmacy is meeting the standards every day.
  • Changing inspection outcomes – there are now 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 a new website. We expect to begin publishing inspection reports in Summer 2019. Find out more about the publication of inspection reports.
  • Sharing examples of notable practice – examples of notable practice identified through inspections will be published in a ‘knowledge hub’ on the new website, which is due to go live in Summer 2019. This will help encourage continuous learning and improvement in pharmacy. 

Much of our approach to inspections will however stay the same; for example, we will continue to use a ‘show and tell’ approach which involves the whole pharmacy team and we will continue to focus on outcomes for people using the pharmacy services.