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22 September 2015

Welcome to our September issue of Regulate. With students starting a new year at school, college or university, now seems a very appropriate time to give you an update on our work to review our standards for initial education and training

Earlier this year we asked you for your views on our discussion paper Tomorrow’s pharmacy team: future standards for the initial education and training of pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and pharmacy support staff. In that paper we set out our analysis of the policies for health, pharmacy and pharmacy education provision in each of the countries of Great Britain. We then drew some preliminary conclusions about what the policies may mean for the future roles of the pharmacy team and the education and training they will need to fulfil those roles. 

And we asked pharmacy professionals, pharmacy students and trainees, employers and education providers and patients and the public if they agreed with these conclusions, particularly the skills and abilities that pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and members of the pharmacy team will need in the future.

Although we’re still in the process of analysing all the responses we received (more than 130 of them), I’m happy to give you an early snapshot of what you’ve told us and how we intend to use what we have heard when developing the new standards.

There was overwhelming agreement with the core skills of the pharmacy team we identified in our paper; professionalism, communication skills, and multi-professional team working.  

A broad range of views were expressed about the core role and core skills for pharmacy technicians and for support staff which require further exploration and discussion. We also received wide-ranging views on what it means to be a professional; an area we’re exploring as part of our ongoing work around patient-centred professionalism and the revision of our current standards for pharmacy professionals.

Overall there was strong agreement around the direction of travel pharmacy education should take and we’re really grateful to all those who contributed to this discussion. We now have a really helpful platform on which to build our future standards for education and training, and we will continue the discussion with all those with an interest in pharmacy education to help identify answers to some important questions that were raised during the listening exercise.

A major focus of our work in the next twelve to eighteen months will now be on drafting the standards.

The first step will be to hold a national conference in November which will bring together key education and training providers, pharmacy professionals, employers and patient representatives from across the UK to discuss how education and training of the pharmacy team may need to change to respond to future challenges. The conference will consider key issues including how to improve trainees’ experiences during pre-registration training; you can read more about trainees’ and tutors’ views of pre-registration training at the moment in this update.

 I look forward to sharing with you some of our thoughts and learnings that come out of that conference in the next edition of Regulate.

Throughout the first half of 2016 we’ll also be running a number of events for the pharmacy team to help us draft the education and training standards before we begin the formal consultation on the new standards.

Thank you once again to all those involved for continuing to help and challenge us as we develop the new standards. Keep watching this space for updates and opportunities to get involved.

13 July 2015

Given the pace of change in pharmacy, what kind of skills, knowledge and behaviours are we right to expect from a newly qualified pharmacist in 2022? Or a newly qualified pharmacy technician in 2019? This simple sounding (but quite challenging!) question lies at the heart of our planned review of education and training standards for the pharmacy team. 

You have only had to look at the news recently to appreciate the pace of change in pharmacy and the growing recognition of the greater role pharmacy can play in supporting patients and the public to maintain and improve their health and well-being.

Last month the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt MP gave a speech announcing a new deal for GPs in which he recognised the ‘great potential’ of pharmacies and GP practices working together to support patients.  The speech included a commitment to ‘better use’ of pharmacies in primary care and further investment to support community pharmacists with tools and training.

Since then there has been some further detail on how this will work in practice, with the announcement that pharmacists and pharmacy technicians in community pharmacies in England will be given greater access to patient records. This is a move which the GPhC supports because we believe that giving patients the choice to allow pharmacy professionals to access their records can help them to receive better care. 

In the last few weeks NHS England has also announced a commitment to fund 300 pharmacists working in GP practices, to give patients the additional support of an expert pharmacist in their GP surgery. 

In Scotland we have seen the announcement of a major new project on polypharmacy, led by the deputy chief pharmaceutical officer in Scotland and involving organisations across Europe, to address health service provision and sustainable management of medication among the elderly. The Scottish government also said it would allocate £16.2 million to recruit up to 140 new pharmacists with advanced clinical skills training who would work directly with GP practices.

And in Wales there was a similar announcement recently of additional funding to move more care into the community, including by recruiting and training more clinical pharmacists to work alongside GPs as part of a joined-up primary care team.

What’s clear from all of these developments is that the role of pharmacy is evolving rapidly. So too are the expectations of patients and the public about how pharmacy professionals can support them to improve their health and well-being.

We are now in a very different place from even five years ago when the GPhC first came into operation. As the regulator, we need to be responsive to all of these changes, to make sure we regulate in a way that supports and encourages the development of pharmacy and pharmacy professionals to meet the challenges and opportunities ahead.

It’s not our job to specify the shape and size of the pharmacy workforce of the future. But we do need to make sure that the education and training of pharmacy team members equip them for the responsibilities they will be taking on.

This is why we recently published our ‘Tomorrow’s pharmacy team’ discussion paper which will inform our future standards of initial education and training. Those reading the paper will see that it is not a judgement on the quality of current education and training. Instead, we want to use this paper to check our thinking about the direction of pharmacy education should take, and to check whether the conclusions we have drawn are the right ones.

We want to hear the views of pharmacy professionals, patients, students, trainees, employers and education providers in this discussion. And what we hear will help us ensure that the pharmacy team in future has the skills and capabilities to do what the public will expect from them.

It is really crucial that we get this right because any new standards we develop will be educating and training those who will potentially be working in pharmacy for the next 40 to 50 years.

Please join the discussion and help us to shape the future of pharmacy education and training.

13 May 2015

Over the past year policy-makers across Great Britain have made clear their support for developing the full potential of pharmacy.  As the regulator of both registered pharmacies and individual pharmacy professionals, we play an important role in promoting improvement and managing risk across pharmacy and in providing assurance to patients and the public that pharmacies and pharmacy professionals are meeting the right standards.

We will continue to seek some important legislative changes in this new parliament to help achieve this, including new powers to publish reports from inspections and to take enforcement action against pharmacies that are not meeting our standards.

This is just one part of the ambitious programme of work we’re taking forward. And we will need your views and your experience to help shape and inform this work.

I hope you’ve had chance to read the update I sent earlier this week asking you to feed into our discussion on patient-centred professionalism and our evaluation of our new approach to regulating pharmacy professionals. I’m really grateful to all of those who’ve already responded and I would encourage everyone who hasn’t already to get involved.

And thanks also to all those that have responded to our fees consultation; this closes tomorrow so you still have time to share your views on our proposals for small cash increases to our fees.

Over the coming year we’ll continue to ask for your thoughts on some important developments that sit at the heart of what we do as a regulator, including reviewing our standards for conduct, ethics and performance, and updating our standards for education and training of pharmacists and pharmacy technicians.

I know we’re asking a lot from you at the moment in terms of your input into the development of our work. We understand that many pharmacy professionals are already facing increasing demands on their time, but it’s really vital for us that we take into account your views and the views of the public in everything we do. After all, that is the only way we can achieve our vision of pharmacy regulation playing its part in improving quality in pharmacy.

One way you can get involved is by joining our new panel of pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, pharmacy owners, pre-registration trainees and students. We hope you will consider participating, because your contribution will help ensure the way we regulate is proportionate and fully reflects the realities of pharmacy practice today. If you feel you’d like to contribute please do get in touch. Another way of getting involved is by volunteering to test our draft continuing fitness to practise framework. Please email to find out more and register your interest. 

We’re not just committed to listening. We’re also committed to learning. One of the things we’ve learned for example is that as an organisation we can get better at sharing some of the feedback we’ve received through our listening exercises and consultations and explaining how this has influenced our regulatory work. So keep watching this space and our website for any updates and opportunities to participate. And thank you once again for your continuing involvement and input. 

5 March 2015

With spring in the air (although I’m conscious that some will be adamant that spring does not start until equinox on 21 March!), I wanted to update you on some important developments in pharmacy regulation and on the work we are doing.

We recently published an update on our new model for the regulation of pharmacies and prototype inspection model. We have been listening carefully to the feedback from pharmacy owners and stakeholders and this paper highlights some of the progress we’ve made. It also sets out where we’ve taken into account that feedback, for example by identifying the need to review our ‘ratings’ system.

We’ve also made significant progress in the drafting of our hearings and sanctions guidance. This guidance is aimed at people involved or interested in our fitness to practise (FtP) hearings and is the main document our FtP committees use to help with their hearings. We’ve had some really useful comments back on the discussion paper we published last year which we’ve reflected in the draft guidance. We now really would like to hear from you whether we got the structure, content and tone of the draft guidance right

Following the commitment made by our Chair Nigel Clarke during last year’s Pharmacy Show to review our Standards for Conduct, Ethics and Performance, I can confirm that we’ll be publishing a discussion paper very shortly which will explore the concept of patient centred professionalism. We really want to hear how you show professionalism on a day-to-day basis and what barriers and enablers you think there currently are to professionalism. We’re hoping to launch the paper in the next few weeks so do watch this space.

We’re also looking to publish our final guidance for registered pharmacies providing internet and distance sale, supply or service provision in the next few weeks. Many of you will remember that we published our draft guidance last year and I’d like to use this opportunity to thank all of those who commented.  

Last but certainly not least, we’re consulting on our proposed fee levels for 2016. We’re proposing small cash increases for all registrant categories. Even after these small cash increases, fees for pharmacists and pharmacy technicians in 2016 will still be lower than those charged in 2011. Our fees need to reflect the underlying cost of regulating each registrant group and we need to avoid, where possible, any significant future fluctuations. I’m keen to hear your views, so please download our consultation here and respond directly by taking part in this short questionnaire.

Many of you will also have picked up on changes proposed by government Ministers which would amend existing legislation on inadvertent dispensing errors and would allow us to publish reports and outcomes from our pharmacy inspections. We welcome those proposals and we’ll be responding to them formally in due course. If you want to find out more about the proposals or if you want respond to the consultation directly, you can do so by clicking here.

As you can tell, we’ve got a very busy and exciting couple of months ahead of us. As ever, we really value your input in everything we do, and your involvement is much appreciated. 

10 November 2014

We’re using our new online version of Regulate to give you more information about our review of the conduct, ethics and performance standards which Nigel Clarke announced in his keynote speech at the Pharmacy Show. We are making an important commitment to engage and consult extensively with both the public and the pharmacy profession. Why is this so important? Many within pharmacy are working innovatively to support people and communities to manage and improve their health and wellbeing. We can also see evidence both of the public’s trust in the profession and, at the very same time, evidence that the public are increasingly willing to challenge and, yes, to complain when their expectations are not met. So it’s never been more important to have an honest and open dialogue with the public about the standards society can and should expect of professionals working in pharmacy.

Whether you work as a professional in pharmacy or you work, as I do, in a regulatory body, one thing we have in common is a shared purpose - to serve the public. For you as pharmacy professionals and for us as regulators it’s essential that we put the people we both serve right at the heart of our review of the core professional standards. And we need pharmacists and pharmacy technicians to have their say too, so that the standards which emerge are realistic and achievable as well as principled and aspirational. I think the standards we set as a result of this review process should ideally be a co-production between the public and the profession. I see our role as being much more about hosting the conversation than issuing edicts.  There will be a clear output at the end of the project, in the shape of an up-to-date set of regulatory standards for pharmacy. But it may be one of those times when the journey (hopefully towards mutual understanding and clarity of expectations) is as important in some ways as the destination. 

Have you ever struggled to make sense of what is the ‘right thing’ to do in the face of competing imperatives in a difficult situation when there’s no obvious single best answer?  Or just a least-worst option? Have you had to make a pragmatic on-the-spot call about how best to balance what you regard as the best interests of the person in front of you with what they are telling you about what they actually want? Add in to the mix having to work out where your employer’s legitimate interests begin and end. It’s always seemed to me that managing this kind of complexity on a daily basis is one of the great challenges and privileges of being a professional at all. It’s precisely because there aren’t easy answers that the public need you to be professional, particularly when we all know very well by now that systems and procedures only get you so far. If you want our work on professional standards to take account of your reality and your concerns, as well as your values and ambitions, I hope you’ll make time to take part

1 October 2014

Welcome to Regulate in its new online form. Going online gives us a great opportunity to share with you up to date regulatory news and information. We want to build on what people told us they have found useful and interesting about Regulate so far. And by using this online format we’re aiming to do that in a topical, engaging and increasingly interactive way. Have a look round, please, and let us know what you think. Whether it’s longer articles on important regulatory themes, or brief news pieces highlighting must-read factual information, I hope there’s something here for pharmacist and pharmacy technician colleagues from all sectors of practice in England, Scotland and Wales. We at the GPhC are mindful of the fact that you are busy providing care and services to your patients and the public, often in very challenging circumstances. We therefore want Regulate to be relevant and useful, so that the time you spend on it is time well spent. Please let us know how we are doing against that objective.