GphC responds to our concerns about unannounced inspections

I was concerned about the recent GPhC inspection changes and thought that it would be in the interest of the members of pharmacistweb to raise my concerns to help ensure our members are well prepared.

I emailed the GPhC on 2nd May 2019 to enquire about the new inspections and the impact they would have on pharmacist, particularly locum pharmacist.

Before we delve any further into the GPhC’s response it is important to ensure we are all aware of the change, so here is a short video we created.


Why was I concerned?

My concerns stemmed from the fact that an unannounced inspection increases the probability of a locum being present during the inspection. Usually, when a company is aware that they are having an inspection, the pharmacy manager and regular staff will be in place and ‘test-runs’ occur to test the system prior to the inspection. So, let us assume that ‘unannounced inspections’ will increase the chance of a locum being the responsible pharmacist at the time of the inspection. Thus, an unannounced inspection is a better reflection of what happens on a day-to-day basis.

Now, whilst I am not against ‘unannounced inspections’ I do think that locums need to be aware and informed of the potential impact of the inspection. I am not certain how much exposure locum pharmacists have when it comes to being inspected compared to a pharmacy manager who works for the company and regularly undergoes test-runs. And, is aware of the in-depth documentation and process kept by the company, obviously locums read and sign SOPs prior to working in the pharmacy. Therefore, they will be aware of the overarching documentation and process in the pharmacy. Nonetheless, there may be slight nuances in the individual pharmacies which a locum may not be aware of.

Fitness to practice concerns?

I was concerned that in a scenario where a locum had been booked in an emergency and perhaps has not had time to fully accustom his/her self with the in-depth detail of the pharmacy. That locum could find his/herself in a precarious situation if an inspection took place. We asked the GPhC what could occur in a situation which raises potential fitness to practice concerns during an inspection, this could occur in the scenario above or even in a scenario were the pharmacy owner is also a pharmacist. The GphC’s response is as follows:

“If during an inspection an inspector finds information that concerns them about a pharmacy professional’s fitness to practise they will pass that on to the concerns team for further consideration and triage.”

The above response implies that inspections could flag concerns about a pharmacy professional’s fitness to practice, and if this is the case, it will be reviewed by the appropriate team who will decide the best course of action. Notice the word ‘Pharmacy profession’ this covers professionals in the pharmacy including technicians.

Safety concerns during an inspection i.e. busy pharmacy

I was concerned about a situation where the pharmacy was really busy and the locum pharmacist required focus. I was concerned that the inspection process could lead to patient safety concerns. The GphC have stated:

In situations where an inspector thinks that continuing an inspection may mean that patient safety may be put at risk, they will halt the inspection and resume it when it is safe to do so.

Intelligence-led inspections – what does this involve exactly?

I was concerned about this situation and asked the GphC for clarification, particularly as I wondered what would happen if there was an ongoing conflict between a pharmacy and customers. The GphC’s response was as followes:

Our intelligence-led inspections will use information we receive from the public, other people or organisations, including regulators, healthcare professionals, as well as from journalists and the media. The information will be assessed so that we undertake intelligence-led inspections on the right cases, when information is received from verifiable sources

A key point I obtained from the information above was, ‘verifiable’ sources. I think this is important as it should help maintain the credibility of reports.

Next steps

 I am working on further research into this topic with the aim of creating a webinar session to help prepare pharmacists.

Please note, the GphC have referred us to their website for further information

Written by Ade Tojuola MPharm MBA| English Pharmacy Board candidate 2019| Vote for change!

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