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GPhC on 2022: Temporary closures, online pharmacy, and 'remarkable resilience'

General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) chair Gisela Abbam provides her reflections on 2022 and her hopes for 2023 in the second of our C+Dmas series

At the end of the year, and after eight months as chair of the GPhC, it’s a great time to reflect on what the challenges are in pharmacy as well as some of the big achievements.
I am honoured to be working with such a dedicated profession – who went beyond the call of duty (and still do) to especially provide care and support to local communities during the height of COVID-19.

The role of pharmacy is more important than ever as so many of us are increasingly relying on pharmacy professionals and pharmacies for advice and care. Pharmacy professionals are providing more clinical services to the public and patients – especially through community pharmacies.
In 2023 and beyond, there is an opportunity for planning towards more targeted clinical services, thereby enhancing the role of the pharmacy profession while contributing to improving health outcomes.
Access to patient records to both read and update must be integral to the safe provision of more clinical care as well as independent prescribing for the pharmacy profession.

Read more: Removal ‘likely’ – GPhC cracks down on racism with new FtP proposals

With technological advances and digital health, online pharmacy continues to grow to meet the demands of patients and the public. People are increasingly using online pharmacy services to get medicines and treatments and there can be real benefits to this, but there are also significant risks that need to be managed.
The challenge is that there is an increased patient safety element, which has already surfaced through inspections and fitness to practise. For 2023, a focus on educating the public about the dos and don’ts of online pharmacy is imperative.

Read more: Give GPhC powers to better regulate online and corporate pharmacies, watchdog says

The issue of temporary pharmacy closures has caused concern for many this year, particularly patients, carers, and their families who rely on community pharmacies for medicines and other services.

As the independent pharmacy regulator, we do not have a role in planning or authorising where pharmacies should be located, when they open, or what they offer. However, pharmacy owners and pharmacy professionals should make sure they are meeting our standards at all times, including when managing closures of pharmacies.

We continue to take part in discussions with key bodies across the three countries that we regulate, including the NHS authorities. We know things are quite arduous for everyone working in pharmacy, in all settings.
However, the remarkable resilience and professionalism I see across the profession is vitally important for patients, families and carers in our communities.

There is a growing urgency, both in society as a whole and within pharmacy, to tackle all forms of inequality. As a service provider, it is essential that pharmacies create an environment where the safety and welfare of both the team and patients are protected, and work is carried out within the law.
This includes making sure that no one is unlawfully discriminated against, either in the workplace or during the delivery of services.


Read more: GPhC: Chief pharmacists who fail standards will be sanctioned quicker

As a regulator we believe that as well as it being a legal and regulatory duty, embedding the principles of equality and human rights in the day-to-day running of a pharmacy is the right thing to do.
Efforts to deal with health and workforce inequalities – and to remove the barriers that people face when trying to access health and care services – can also bring benefits to society and the wider economy.

Looking ahead to next year, it’s clear to see that things are not slowing down, particularly with new legislation to strengthen pharmacy governance that commenced in December. It means we received new powers to define how the roles of the responsible pharmacist, superintendent pharmacist and chief pharmacist are fulfilled.

As a result, we are engaging extensively with patients and the public, health professionals, the NHS and the wider health sector, to discuss the requirements and expectations around these roles. That engagement will continue next year before we hold full public consultations on any new rules and standards.


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