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GPhC reports 'growing caseload' over pharmacist prescribing

More “issues around prescribing judgments” have led the pharmacy regulator to hire inspectors with prescribing qualifications, chief executive Duncan Rudkin has told the pharmacy inquiry.

Duncan Rudkin, chief executive of the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC), told MPs at an evidence session for the parliamentary pharmacy inquiry this week (January 16) that the regulator was seeing a “growing caseload around clinical issues”.

Mr Rudkin told members of the health and social care committee (HSCC) that the rise in the regulator’s “clinical” caseload, which he clarified related to “issues around prescribing judgments”, had forced the GPhC to adapt.

Read more: GPhC appoints new FtP and pharmacy inspections executive leads

He said that the GPhC was hiring new staff to build “a different kind of workforce” to cope with new types of cases.

Mr Rudkin added that a “growing proportion” of recent recruits were “clinically focused inspectors”, many of whom are prescribers.

He also drew the committee’s attention to the regulator’s recent recruitment of its first chief pharmacist, which he said helped to “strengthen [its] ability to engage with the profession”.


“Medicines champions”


Mr Rudkin’s comments came as MPs explored workforce issues facing pharmacy in a session that drew on evidence from the GPhC, the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) chair Mark Koziol and incoming president of the Association of Pharmacy Technicians UK (APTUK) Nicola Stockmann.

Ms Stockmann asked legislators to prioritise “enabling the profession” by supporting it to provide services through patient group directions and revising supervision rules.

Read more: Nicola Stockmann takes up ‘prestigious’ role as APTUK chief

And Mr Koziol told the committee that the pharmacy union wants “pharmacists to be pharmacists”.

His wide-ranging evidence pointed to areas where regulation could be changed to allow pharmacists to better focus on “medicines management issues”.

Read more: The way forward: Remote supervision in community pharmacy

Mr Koziol told MPs that empowering pharmacists in this way would address “adverse drug reactions”, which were a major cause of hospital admissions.

“The pharmacist should be the patient's medicines champion,” he said.

And he added that community pharmacy needs to become “more of a clinical operation” with more than one pharmacist working in a branch.


IP opportunity


Paulette Hamilton, Labour MP for Birmingham Erdington and a nurse, asked Mr Koziol about the strategy behind the implementation of independent prescribing.

She said that nurse prescribing, when introduced, was rarely used and that “because it was so narrow, it was so difficult to use it that people gave up on it”.

Mr Koziol said that independent prescribing was an “astonishingly exciting opportunity” for pharmacists but expressed concern that in Scotland it is not used by the “vast majority” of those with the qualification “on a daily basis”.

Read more: University of Wolverhampton cancels IP course with ‘less than a week's notice’

He suggested a situation in which prescribing pharmacists could resolve “medicines related needs” without returning to the doctor or using serious shortage protocols (SSPs) to “change the doses” or “monitor the blood levels” of patients.

Mr Koziol also called on the Department of Health and Social Care (DH) to change the legislation on assembly and dispensing so that medicines are bagged and checked by the time the pharmacist arrives at the pharmacy in the morning.

Then, Mr Koziol suggested, “pharmacists will spend all of their time on clinical issues”.


Supervision latest


In December, the government launched a consultation proposing that pharmacy technicians could "run a dispensary" without "reference to a pharmacist" in certain situations, and that checked and bagged prescribed medicines would be allowed to be handed out in a retail pharmacy in the absence of a pharmacist 

Pharmacy organisations commended the proposals, with chief executive of the Company Chemists’ Association (CCA) Malcolm Harrison calling it “the basis for the greatest evolution in pharmacy practice for 70 years”.

Read more: Supervision reform proposals could pose ‘risk to patient safety', DH admits

But C+D also reported that the DH had admitted in an “impact assessment” published alongside the consultation that the proposed changes pose a “potential risk to patient safety”.

Meanwhile, the GPhC announced in October that Roz Gittins had been hired as its chief pharmacy officer.

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