We set standards for registered pharmacies in Great Britain and inspect pharmacies to assess if they are meeting these standards.

This provides assurance to patients and the public that they will receive safe and effective care. Pharmacy inspections will also help pharmacies improve their systems and services and the quality of care for patients and the public using their services.

On our Inspections website, we publish reports from pharmacy inspections that have taken place since April 2019.

In our knowledge hub, you can find examples of notable practice; the good and excellent practice our inspectors are seeing during inspections, as well as poor practice.

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 ‘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 inspections’ video for an introduction to what happens during an inspection.

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. 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. 

Since June 2022, we have been completing a more proportionate approach to routine inspections, which include inspections of a representative control sample of pharmacies on the register. And we have built on the more supportive calls and visits we made to pharmacies during the pandemic, to call and visit pharmacies to assure ourselves that they are operating safely for the public, (through assurance calls and visits). Find out more on our ‘Different types of inspections’ page.