Timeless principles for pharmacy

27 April 2017

One of our core responsibilities as a regulator is to ensure that people using pharmacy services remain confident in those services and the professionals who provide them.

I want to talk about two significant steps we are taking to advance this commitment, and to support and promote professionalism.

This week, we have launched a 12-week consultation on revalidation for pharmacy professionals. And on 12 May, our new standards for pharmacy professionals will come into effect.

Both of these programmes of work represent years of research, testing, evaluation and direct collaboration with  pharmacy professionals, members of the public, the pharmacy sector, and other stakeholders. Both are grounded in timeless principles around serving the public, lifelong learning and professional accountability. And both embody our duty to ensure that these timeless principles remain at the core of pharmacy practice – now and in the future – by considering what we can do differently to support and enable you to meet the challenges within healthcare and the expectations of the public.

Standards for pharmacy professionals

On 12 May the new standards for pharmacy professionals will come into effect. All pharmacists and pharmacy technicians will have to meet the new standards from this date.

The new standards have a different look and feel—they’re less prescriptive, having been reduced from 57 to nine, with examples under each one to illustrate how they might apply in practice. The standards rely less on detailed guidance and more on your knowledge, skills and expertise as a health professional.

Our consultation on the standards was one of the largest we have ever held. We heard from more than 2,700 registrants, stakeholders, professional bodies and members of the public who told us what they felt was important in delivering high-quality, person-centred care.

There is a greater emphasis on person-centred care and prioritising the needs of patients. There is an updated and clear articulation of our expectations around leadership, and how they apply to the entire pharmacy team (not just those with management responsibilities). And building on a long-held commitment to openness, there is a focus on candour and acknowledging mistakes; as well as greater accountability to yourself and your patients.

Beyond a list of ‘dos and don’ts’, the new standards also have more flexibility in supporting and enabling professionalism, but they are only as effective as their application and how well they are embedded in every day practice.  They can inform professional decision-making and can serve as a springboard to get professionals to discuss professionalism with their colleagues. They can be used as a yardstick against which to reflect on your own practice, as well as how your teams are measuring up. These standards will also be the benchmark against which you will be asked to provide evidence in relation to revalidation.

The standards underscore the importance of individual responsibility for pharmacy professionals, but it is important that employers recognise that they, too, have a responsibility to enable and support the registrants working for them by providing an environment where professionalism can flourish.

Employers should ensure that they and their entire pharmacy team are familiar with the new standards and discuss how to better support them in this regard.  They should reflect on how their existing policies and procedures may support – or undermine – a pharmacist or pharmacy technician’s ability to comply with the standards and demonstrate professionalism.

Others also have a stake in the standards.  We expect that professional bodies will take the opportunity to reflect on how they can support their members and supporters in understanding, applying and embedding them.  Those involved in education and training will look to align their curricula with the standards so their students and trainees can reflect on what they will mean in practice.  And we will encourage patient groups and other stakeholders to help us spread the word about the new standards and what people using pharmacy services can and should expect from pharmacy professionals.

Revalidation for pharmacy professionals

After more than three years of work, including two online workshops that generated more than 3,700 responses and ideas, and a pilot project with more than 1,300 volunteers, we have launched our consultation on revalidation for pharmacy professionals.

Although the consultation revolves largely around process – reducing the number of records, changing the timing of submission of those records and changing the review process – it represents an essential shift in our approach to the way you will be asked to demonstrate how you are keeping your knowledge and skills up-to-date.  

What we are proposing reflects what people – both pharmacy professionals and people using their services – have told us they want and expect from a new framework.

We are asking you to go beyond just recording activities and outputs, which many feel has become rote, toward activities that will draw out not only what you have done to increase your knowledge and skills, but also ask, ‘so what’? What has been the impact on your practice? How has it has improved the care you have been able to provide? What are the outcomes for people using the services you provide?

We are proposing to modify and simplify our requirements for CPD to create space for two new activities – peer discussion and a reflective account. The evidence we have collected from our own efforts and from reviewing the revalidation schemes of other health professions suggests that these two activities are especially potent in improving the quality of care you provide to your patients and in your own professional confidence and satisfaction.

Engagement with other colleagues through peer discussion to obtain feedback, reflect on practice and share new ideas is crucial if we are jointly to meet the expectations of the people using pharmacy services. Likewise, taking the time to think about the standards, and articulating, through a reflective account, how you are meeting them in your practice, helps demonstrate how the essentials of safe and effective practice remain at the core of how you work.

With both of these initiatives, we hope to reduce the sense of professional isolation that many pharmacy professionals have reported to us. We all need peers. We all need feedback. We all need to reflect. Engagement and reflection on your practice, and how you’re doing and what you can do better are essential components of the professionalism that every pharmacy professional should embrace.

Supporting professionalism

Introducing the new standards, and our proposals for revalidation for pharmacy professionals, represents two important milestones as we work to support and improve the delivery of safe, effective care and uphold trust in pharmacy. The evidence-based approach underpinning these important initiatives also reflects our approach to regulation, and I believe will enable us to support professionalism in a way that is effective and efficient and, ultimately, will lead to improved outcomes for people using pharmacy services.

But our work – and yours – isn’t over.   Now is the time for you to consider the new standards; what they mean to you and your colleagues and the services and care you provide. We will soon roll out a programme of activities and resources – including a new app – to help you engage with the standards and embed them in your practice.  We hope you will take advantage of these resources to help you understand and apply the new standards with confidence.

We would also encourage you to respond to our revalidation consultation. The participation of registrants and others as we have developed our proposals has been invaluable, but we still need to hear from you and others who will be directly impacted by the plan to find out if we’ve got it right.

Read more about the standards for pharmacy professionals coming into effect

Read more about the revalidation consultation