Duncan’s blog: Publishing inspection reports - assurance and improvement

19 September 2019

Earlier this week we began publishing pharmacy inspection reports for the first time. This is a significant milestone in pharmacy regulation and will give the public and the pharmacy sector access to a wealth of information that they can use to inform the decisions they make.

Publishing those first inspection reports on our new pharmacy inspections site was the culmination of many years of preparation and planning.It required a change in the law, supported by governments across Great Britain. We then held a public consultation on our plans to publish reports, and what we heard through that consultation really helped to shape our final approach.

Our team of inspectors have been working very hard to get ready for this major change, including making sure that the reports they write after each inspection are clear and useful for patients and the public and for the pharmacy team.

We believe that being able to find out the outcomes from pharmacy inspections will give greater assurance to patients and the public that almost all pharmacies are meeting standards.

Where a pharmacy has not met all the standards, the pharmacy’s improvement action plan will also be published. Members of the public taking part in the consultation told us that they wanted to be able to see improvement action plans, so they could be assured that improvement was underway. They wanted to be able to see what steps the pharmacy was taking to meet the standards, and to know that this was being monitored by our inspectors. Members of the public were also significantly more likely to say they would use a pharmacy that had not met all of the standards if they knew that the pharmacy was completing an action plan, when compared to if they didn’t know an action plan was in place.

Another key priority for us is to help promote improvement in pharmacy practice, by sharing what we have learnt from inspecting pharmacies.

We have published a new report sharing what we have learnt from carrying out over 14,000 inspections covering every registered pharmacy in Great Britain since 2013. Something that came through strongly to me when reading the report was that pharmacies will only perform well against the standards if pharmacy owners have made sure that their pharmacies have the right governance, systems and culture in place, and are investing in their staff. Once these elements are in place, the pharmacy staff are then able to deliver good and excellent practice for the patients and the public using their services.

To support pharmacy owners and the pharmacy team to deliver good and excellent practice, we have developed an online ‘knowledge hub’ for the pharmacy team, with short anonymised examples of notable practice identified through pharmacy inspections. This knowledge hub was developed in response to feedback from the pharmacy sector about how useful they found examples of notable practice shared by the inspectors during inspections.

You’ll see that the knowledge hub highlights examples of excellent, good and poor practice for the key themes identified by the report on our learning from inspections, as well as examples for the standards that have a key role in driving performance and the standards that are most commonly found to be not met. We will be regularly updating the knowledge hub with new examples, so make sure you regularly visit to see what’s new.

We hope you find the new information we are publishing helps you and your team to continually improve the services you provide to patients and public. And we want to continually improve the information we make available, so please do let us know your feedback about the new site. You can do this quickly and easily via the link at the top of each page on the new pharmacy inspections site.

Inspection visit

Aamer Safdar is one of our Council members who joined our Council in March 2019. He recently went with one of our inspectors on an inspection visit as part of his induction. 

Aamer reflects in the blog post below about his experiences and on how inspections can help the pharmacy team:

I recently took time off work and had the pleasure of visiting a community pharmacy with a GPhC inspector to observe what they do and learn as much as I can about the process. The pharmacy that we visit is part of a health centre. It’s very small, with one pharmacist and a couple of assistants.

As all GPhC inspection visits are now unannounced, the pharmacist- who is also the owner- has no idea we are coming. She is initially shocked when the inspector introduces herself, but soon calms down as the inspection process commences.

I observe while the inspector asks questions based on the inspection standards in a conversational manner, which is not what I was expecting! This is not the enforcement style with questions about why standards were not being met that I had anticipated. The approach is very supportive and helpful, even when some of the more important standards have not been met.

The inspector goes through a raft of standards, which include checking of expired medicines, temperature monitoring, standard operating procedures, controlled drug registers and storage of medicines. What pleases me most is the focus on the training of the support staff who are working in the pharmacy. This is an area close to my heart.

As there are times when the pharmacy is busy, the inspector allows the locum pharmacist who takes over from the pharmacist owner to get on with his duties, and I take the time to learn about the role of a GPhC inspector. We discuss a wide range of things in snatched conversations: the pressure that inspectors can feel when discharging their duties, how they write up their reports and how are these are quality assured in preparation to be published. The inspector also explains some of the difficulties, such as knowing what training is suitably accredited and recognised by the GPhC. We even have time to talk about community pharmacist independent prescribing.

I have learnt a lot from this visit as it has given me reassurance that the inspectors are diligent in their work and are focused primarily on the inspection standards whilst keeping patients and the public in the forefront of their minds. They are obviously there to help the pharmacy team as well and do this in a positive and helpful manner.