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CQC should replace GPhC as pharmacy premises regulator, MPs told

The PDA chair has told the parliamentary pharmacy inquiry that the Care Quality Commission (CQC) should regulate pharmacy premises, while the GPhC should focus on pharmacists.

The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) should relinquish its regulation of pharmacy premises to “concentrate on the people regulation”, Pharmacists' Defence Association (PDA) chair Mark Koziol told MPs at the parliamentary pharmacy inquiry this week (January 16).

Mr Koziol told members of the health and social care committee (HSCC) that the CQC - which presently regulates hospitals, GPs, dentists and care homes, among other services - is the “right place” to regulate pharmacies.

Read more: GPhC reports 'growing caseload' over pharmacist prescribing

“We believe that community pharmacy premises should be looked after by the CQC - no question about that whatsoever”, he said.

He added that it was also important for pharmacy business owners to be regulated, which he suggested should also fall under the CQC’s remit.

Mr Koziol said that the PDA backs a change in regulatory focus “100%” since the GPhC’s workload from community pharmacy issues was “overwhelming”.


GPhC: Premises regulation “needs to be looked at”


GPhC chief executive Duncan Rudkin had earlier told MPs that the regulator’s “unusual if not unique arrangement” of inspecting pharmacy premises “made sense” when originally designed but “needs to be looked at”.

Mr Rudkin noted that nowadays pharmacy services are not “tied necessarily” to a premises, noting that “some of the online issues” raised with the regulator related to this.

Read more: PDA slams regulator and CPhO for normalising ‘unsafe practices’

Rachael Maskell, Labour MP for York Central, asked Mr Rudkin whether he was advocating for CQC regulation of pharmacy buildings, to which Mr Rudkin said that he was merely “flagging” the issue for discussion.

He said that a “regulatory model that was designed in a different era” is under “strain” as services move away from “a particular building”.


“Regulatory gaps”


Mr Rudkin told MPs that “regulatory gaps” may require legislative changes, adding that businesses are being set up that use pharmacists to provide clinical care but not to supply medication.

As such, these services are “not liable to be regulated by [the GPhC]”, but also fall outside the CQC’s jurisdiction “because it's a pharmacist service”. 

Read more: GPhC: Almost 2,000 FtP concerns raised about online pharmacies since 2019

Mr Koziol also raised concerns with the HSCC about “non-pharmacist area managers” that are outside regulation, saying they too should be regulated by the CQC.

He told MPs that the PDA had heard reports of non-pharmacist managers interfering with pharmacists’ interactions with patients in a “not safe” manner.


Regulation latest


Last week, C+D reported that the PDA had clashed with the regulator and NHS chief pharmaceutical officer (CPhO) David Webb over a joint letter that warned of “further challenges over the coming weeks and months…exacerbated by staff shortages due to sickness or caring responsibilities, as well as the ongoing industrial action”.

The PDA said that “it is not enough for those in positions of authority to just highlight workforce pressures” adding that that their approach may “endanger” the wellbeing of pharmacists by normalising “unsafe practices”.  

Read more: The right to a day in court: In-person GPhC hearings

And in September, the Professional Standards Authority (PSA) wrote to the health secretary under its "escalation policy" after a review found that the GPhC had failed to meet fitness-to-practise (FtP) timeliness standards for the fifth year running.

Meanwhile, the first session of the pharmacy inquiry in November saw contractor representatives warn MPs that “uncontrolled closures” of community pharmacies were a “great risk” given the “flat” core funding and other challenges facing the sector.

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