Developing an updated regulatory framework for unregistered pharmacy staff

27 April 2017

We know that everyone in the pharmacy team plays a key role in providing safe and effective care and we want to strengthen and assure the regulatory framework around staffing within pharmacy. As part of our work to review the initial education and training standards for pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and independent prescribers, we think it is right to look at the education and training of unregistered pharmacy staff.

Unregistered pharmacy staff refers to staff within the pharmacy team who are not registered with us but are involved in pharmacy services at or from a registered pharmacy. This includes dispensers and medicines counter assistants, as well as non-registrant pharmacy managers.

We have carried out a range of consultations and evaluation exercises in the last two years which have provided useful background and insight into the role, functions and accountability for unregistered pharmacy staff working in registered pharmacies. As a result of this work our governing council has agreed to take forward a programme of work to update the regulatory framework for unregistered pharmacy staff.

What is changing?

Currently, individual pharmacists are accountable to the GPhC for the training of staff, which should be the responsibility of the owner.

The new framework will make it clear that accountability for ensuring unregistered pharmacy staff are competent for their roles sits with the pharmacy owner. The council paper sets out more detail but there are two important points:

•We want to strengthen and make explicit the vital role of employers, and in particular owners of registered pharmacies, in ensuring unregistered pharmacy staff are competent for their roles.

•That this strengthened accountability for owners does not change the important responsibility of individual pharmacists, particularly the Responsible Pharmacist, to only delegate tasks to people who are competent or to those that are in training and under supervision.

Guidance for owners

We will be developing and consulting on new guidance for pharmacy owners to sit underneath principle 2 of the standards for registered pharmacies: that ‘staff are empowered and competent to safeguard the health, safety and wellbeing of patients and the public’.

The guidance will cover all pharmacy staff, including non-registrant managers, and will describe our expectations about how owners will need to assess and assure the competence of their staff, taking into account a minimum level of competence that we will set for staff involved in the dispensing process and the supply of medicines.

The new guidance would replace the current policy on minimum training requirements, inherited from the previous regulator, which is out of date and no longer fit for purpose.

Flexibility of training

Pharmacy services, and the roles required to deliver them, are developing to reflect what is needed across different employers in various settings. We are committed to ensuring that training provision can be flexible in responding to changes in health care needs and professional practice.

We have reviewed our current framework of non-statutory accreditation of training programmes for unregistered staff and, following full consultation on the new guidance for owners and subject to our governing council’s  approval, we would no longer approve individual training programmes and qualifications for unregistered staff.

Owners and pharmacy professionals would be responsible for selecting appropriate training for their staff and we would provide assurance of this through our regulation of registered pharmacies.

What happens now?

Our governing council has agreed that while we develop and consult on our new guidance, the existing minimum training requirements will continue to apply. We intend to consult on guidance in autumn with a view to agreeing the new framework by the end of 2017.

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