One of the pharmacists at your pharmacy is very religious and prefers not to supply emergency hormonal contraception (EHC).
Previously, he has discreetly declined to supply EHC, without making his views known to patients. However, your pharmacy has had financial cutbacks and some staff members have left. He is now the only member of the team who can supply EHC.
How did C+D readers vote?
The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) tells C+D: "The answer is no."
Standard one of the GPhC's standards for pharmacy professionals, published in May 2017, states pharmacy professionals should "take responsibility for ensuring that person-centred care is not compromised because of personal values and beliefs".
In June, the GPhC also developed new guidance, on religion, personal values and beliefs, which states: "Pharmacy professionals have the right to practise in line with their religion, personal values or beliefs – as long as they act in accordance with equalities and human rights law and make sure that person-centred care is not compromised."
The GPhC adds: "Pharmacy professionals are expected to comply with the standards for pharmacy professionals and not impose their own values and beliefs on other people, and to take responsibility for ensuring that patient care is not compromised.
"Pharmacy professionals must make sure that they keep up to date and comply with the law, and with any NHS or employment policies and contractual responsibilities of their employer that apply to their particular area of work. In the context of religion, personal values and beliefs in pharmacy, it is important that pharmacy professionals understand and keep to the relevant framework of equalities and human rights legislation.
"Employers must also keep to the relevant employment, human rights and equalities law, and must not discriminate against pharmacy professionals because of their stated or perceived personal values or beliefs, including religion.
"Pharmacy professionals should use their professional judgement to make sure the person asking for care is able to receive or access the services they need. This includes considering the impact of their decision on the person asking for care and meeting their legal responsibilities.
"The GPhC guidance explains that this does not mean pharmacy professionals must act against their conscience and must always provide a particular service. The guidance sets out that referral to another health professional may be an appropriate option, and this can include handover to another pharmacist at the same, or another, pharmacy or service provider.
"However, it also makes clear that this may not always be the case; for example, if a service is not accessible or available elsewhere for the patient. Pharmacy professionals must consider whether a referral is appropriate and take responsibility for the outcome of the person’s care.
"If a pharmacy professional is unwilling to provide a certain service, they should take steps to make sure the person asking for care is at the centre of their decision-making, so they can access the service they need in a timely manner and without hindrance. For example, this might include considering any time limits or other barriers to accessing medicines or other services, as well as any adverse impact on the person.
"Pharmacy professionals should think in advance about the range of services they can provide, the roles they feel able to carry out, and how to handle requests for services sensitively. They should not knowingly put themselves in a position where they are unwilling to deliver or arrange timely care for a person.
"Pharmacy professionals should work in partnership with their employers and colleagues to create open and honest work environments. They should be open with their employer about any ways in which their religion, personal values or beliefs might impact on their willingness to provide certain pharmacy services...and work in partnership with their employer to make sure adequate and appropriate arrangements are put in place."