Carrying out inspections

Our inspection team carry out routine and intelligence-led inspections and themed reviews. During inspections, our inspectors look for evidence that standards are being met.

During pharmacy inspections, our inspectors will be looking for evidence to show that the standards for registered pharmacies are met. Our inspections follow a ‘show and tell’ approach; our inspectors look at the pharmacy services being provided and involve members of the pharmacy team in the inspection.

The whole pharmacy team will need to understand the standards and think about what examples they can give to show how they are meeting the standards and what supporting evidence they can provide.

Unannounced inspections

Inspections are generally unannounced.  This is because we believe it is important for us to inspect a pharmacy as patients and members of the public find it and to see how well a pharmacy is meeting our standards day to day.

Inspections generally take around three hours, but the length will vary depending upon the nature of the pharmacy and the focus of the inspection.

When a GPhC inspector arrives for an inspection they will show their identification and the Responsible Pharmacist should check this identification.

Most inspections take place between 9am and 5pm, although a small number may take place later if the pharmacy opens later or over the weekend if there is good reason for this.

In situations where an inspector thinks that continuing an inspection may mean that patient safety could be put at risk, they will halt the inspection and resume when it is safe to do so.

Meeting the standards for registered pharmacies

Responsibility for meeting pharmacy standards lies with pharmacy owners. However, we realise that the pharmacy owner or superintendent may not be in attendance when the inspection takes place. Where this is the case, we will still carry out our inspection, even if on that day the Responsible Pharmacist is a locum. This is because pharmacies must meet our standards every day.

What inspectors will look at during an inspection

During the inspection, the inspectors will continue to speak to the pharmacy team as a whole rather than just the owner, superintendent or Responsible Pharmacist.

Inspectors will not be looking for a standard set of documents or practices. Instead, the owner and superintendent, in collaboration with the pharmacy team, must provide evidence of how they meet the standards.

Our inspectors will gather and record evidence in a number of ways, including:

  • Looking at written or documentary evidence
  • Observing interactions with patients 
  • Asking questions and posing scenarios to staff 
  • Testing systems, processes and procedures

Inspectors will ask a range of questions to help them understand the context in which a pharmacy is operating and use a ‘show and tell’ approach.

The evidence collected by our inspectors will be used to assess whether a pharmacy has met all of the standards.

At the end of the inspection the inspector will go through their findings with the Responsible Pharmacist, who will be asked to confirm they have received feedback from the inspection. The Responsible Pharmacist has an opportunity to make any additional comments. This is important to show that the evidence recorded on the report is an accurate reflection of what the inspector saw and was shown on the day.

Pharmacies which have not met one or more of the standards will also be asked to complete an improvement action plan setting out what action they are planning to take to improve against those standards.

Different types of inspection

Our inspection team carry out both routine and intelligence-led inspections. We also undertake themed reviews, where we visit a range of pharmacies to look in detail at a particular theme.

Click on the titles below to find out more about each type of inspection.

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.

Since June 2022, we have been taking a more proportionate approach to routine inspections, which include inspections of a representative control sample of pharmacies. This sample provides a snapshot of performance of the register across Great Britain and within each country. The insights from these inspections help inform risk-based programmes of work and learning for the sector. 

We are also using what we learnt from the COVID-19 pandemic. During that time, we targeted our resources towards pharmacies that had 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 introduced support calls to pharmacies to check how they were coping and to signpost pharmacy teams to resources that may help them deliver their services to patients and the public. 

Following on from this we have built into our model assurance calls and visits, which consist of getting in touch or visiting pharmacies to assure ourselves that pharmacies are operating safely for the public and pharmacy service users.

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

We 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.