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Coronavirus: Nearly 6,000 could rejoin GPhC register in an emergency

The GPhC could grant temporary registration to 5,800 pharmacists and pharmacy technicians no longer on its register if an emergency is declared during the coronavirus outbreak.

A policy on the temporary registration of pharmacy professionals was agreed by the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) members at a council meeting yesterday (March 12).

Pharmacists and pharmacy technicians who were voluntarily removed from the GPhC register or who did not renewed their registration will be re-registered on a “temporary basis if an emergency is declared by the secretary of state”, the GPhC said.

Employers will be responsible for ensuring that any re-joiners they hire have the right competency and skills required for their role, the GPhC agreed at the meeting yesterday.

The regulator reviewed its policy following the UK government’s action plan on coronavirus, which outlines that healthcare professionals who have retired or “left their roles” could return to them “to alleviate pressures and contribute to providing essential services”.

Phased registration

The policy, which the GPhC made public earlier this week (March 9), states that temporary registration “will be done in phases, which may be combined depending on the scale of the emergency and the pharmacy services required”.

An estimated 2,700 pharmacists and 1,300 pharmacy technicians could be re-registered as part of the first phase, the GPhC said.

These numbers are based on the regulator concluding that those who can rejoin the register need to have at least two years’ recent practice experience.

A further 900 pharmacists and 900 pharmacy technicians would be added during phase two “using the same timeframe”, the regulator said.

In case of rising demand for more pharmacy staff to receive temporary registration “in an emergency”, the GPhC could also consider those who “have demonstrated many, but not all, of the required knowledge and skills or who have less recent experience of pharmacy practice”, it said.

Voluntary basis

The regulator specified it does not have “the powers to require people who are temporarily registered to return to practice”, leaving the choice to each professional, who “would be doing so on a voluntary basis to help their community”.

“On declaration of emergency we will enact the policy by publishing the temporary register on our website, enabling the individuals themselves and employers to check eligibility,” the GPhC said.

The regulator has powers to “temporarily register premises” under emergency circumstances, but it said that “at this stage, there are no indications that additional premises may be necessary”. However, it added that the situation will be monitored.

Last week, the GPhC told C+D it could suspend inspections if the coronavirus outbreak worsens. The regulator will take coronavirus into account if concerns are raised against registered professionals where the virus is a factor.

What do you make of the GPhC's policy announcement?

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