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Asda pharmacy: Self-checking prescriptions necessary on ‘rare occasions’

Asda has explained its policy on pharmacists self-checking prescriptions, following a tweet suggesting it may be a requirement in some branches.

A screenshot of some guidance for Asda pharmacists was shared on Twitter on Tuesday (March 29) suggesting that: “When working in the main dispensary… you may also be required to self-check, please do not leave work uncompleted for following pharmacists”.

A spokesperson for Asda confirmed to C+D on Wednesday (March 30) that the guidance in question relates to the Asda pharmacy at Trafford Park, Manchester.

“Asda’s standard operating procedures call for a two-step check process, however there are rare occasions that would necessitate a self-check,” the spokesperson said.

“It is the responsibility of the pharmacist to exercise their professional judgement when making these decisions and ensuring medicine supply can be maintained safely.”

The pharmacy in question “is a site where volumes are lower and single checks can be carried out without compromising on patient safety”, the spokesperson added.


GPhC guidance


While there is no specific mention of self-checking in General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) guidance, when asked by C+D whether pharmacists should avoid the practice, the regulator said: “Pharmacies must adhere to the standards for registered pharmacies, which are designed to create and maintain the right environment for the safe and effective practice of pharmacy.”

It highlighted the following standards in particular:

1.1 The risks associated with providing pharmacy services are identified and managed

1.2 The safety and quality of pharmacy services are reviewed and monitored

2.1 There are enough staff, suitably qualified and skilled, for the safe and effective provision of the pharmacy services provided

4.2 Pharmacy services are managed and delivered safely and effectively

It also stressed that: “Pharmacy professionals also need to meet the standards for pharmacy professionals, including using their professional judgement and speaking up when they have concerns or things go wrong.”


Self-checking behind errors?


According to results from the C+D Salary Survey 2021, self-checking could be behind a rise in mistakes at work.

Of the 179 community pharmacist branch managers who reported that they had seen a rise in dispensing errors in the previous 12 months, 17% said self-checking was to blame.

One branch manager pharmacist commented: “Between 06:30 and 09:30, and 20:00 and 22:30 I am working alone, self-checking controlled drug prescriptions, and serving customers.

“Patients are very demanding and as I am alone, I can only serve one patient at a time.”


Would the GPhC take action?


When asked by C+D what the GPhC would do if self-checking had led to mistakes being made in the pharmacy and ultimately resulted in fitness-to-practise (FtP) concerns, the regulator said: “Each concern is considered on a case-by-case basis.”

“We would always look at the context, including whether the environment that the pharmacy professional was working in had a role to play in the incident, along with the pharmacy professional,” the spokesperson said.

And the same if a pharmacist had been specifically asked to self-check by their employer: “We would take action against a pharmacy if our inspectors found that our standards were not being met and patient safety and patient care were being put at risk,” the GPhC spokesperson explained.

Boots came under fire in 2018 when it told a BBC Inside Out programme that Boots pharmacists self-check medicines in “less than 1%” of cases.

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