Duncan’s blog: On reflection…

29 July 2019

I am not a pharmacy professional, so I am not able to register or revalidate with the GPhC. But for my Regulate blog this month, I have nevertheless chosen to write a reflective account. I have followed the revalidation framework and the standards for pharmacy professionals. In lots of ways they are very relevant to my 'practice' as a regulatory professional in a leadership role within the GPhC. I also wanted to test out for myself the revalidation guidance and resources on the GPhC website. 

The typical users of my services

My colleagues in the GPhC provide services for and work with:

  • pharmacy professionals and people preparing to join the professions
  • pharmacy owners, and employers of pharmacy professionals 
  • providers of pharmacy education and training
  • pharmacy representative and leadership organisations and a wide range of other organisations and agencies including government and NHS bodies and other regulators 

Although we work with all these people and more, we operate on behalf of patients and members of the public using pharmacy services, and in their interests.

How I meet the selected standards for pharmacy professionals

This year, the GPhC has asked pharmacists and pharmacy technicians to reflect on one or more of these standards:

  • standard 3 - pharmacy professionals must communicate effectively
  • standard 6 - pharmacy professionals must behave professionally 
  • standard 9 - pharmacy professionals must demonstrate leadership

I have chosen to reflect mainly on standard 3 (effective communication). I have re-read the standards as a whole, focusing particularly on what I can learn from standard 3 and how it applies to my work. Although I do a lot of talking and writing in my job, listening actively and attentively is essential in order to try to understand and empathise with the point of view and experience of people affected by my work. This was brought home to me really powerfully when I met with a number of women whose children had been affected by exposure to Sodium Valproate in the womb. I was really humbled by the dignity and compassion of the women I met, whose response is to work tirelessly to help reduce the risk of other families experiencing the same avoidable harm. Their example has motivated me to keep exploring what more we can do- with others - to achieve that same goal.

Working to try to understand, as well as I can at second hand, the day to day reality of practice for pharmacy professionals, many of whom are experiencing stress associated with workload and resource pressures, is another important communication challenge requiring more listening than talking from me. This was why it was so important for me to attend a round table event we organised to hear about the challenges which individuals and organisations are facing in implementing the guidance we have issued on safe and effective pharmacy team working

Reflecting on these two different listening experiences has helped me see an important connection between them, which is about understanding the obstacles which decent caring professionals can sometimes face in doing the right thing for patients and their families. A constructive regulatory response needs to be part of an ongoing collaborative effort to improve standards of care, in the way that many pharmacy technicians and pharmacists themselves are so passionate about.

We produced information on the safe supply of sodium valproate and sent it to all pharmacy professionals on our register. What we need to do now is understand how effective that was in making a difference to the decisions made by pharmacy professionals on behalf of patients and the public. This is something we can do through our collaboration with organisations who share responsibility for medicines safety and through our analysis of the learning that pharmacy professionals have done as part of revalidation.