The General Pharmaceutical Council's (GPhC) standards of conduct, ethics and performance set out a list of criteria that pharmacists and technicians must meet to practise safely and effectively. Failure to meet them can call a pharmacist's professionalism into question, and may – in extreme circumstances – even result in being struck off the register.
The current standards have been in place since 2010. But with so much change apace within pharmacy, there are “massive opportunities” for the profession to maximise what it can do for patients, says GPhC chief executive Duncan Rudkin. So now is “a good time to take stock, and make sure we have an up-to-date articulation of the core standards that all pharmacy professionals have to meet”, he says.
So what are the potential changes to look out for and how could they affect the profession? C+D took a look through the details of the consultation to find out.
Learn how to communicate well
From dealing with patients to communicating effectively with colleagues, communication skills are essential for pharmacists. The GPhC has reflected this by highlighting the importance of "actively listening" in its draft standards. This involves and adapting your body language and tone of voice when talking to patients, to make sure they understand what you are saying.
Respect patients' privacy
Patients should expect their pharmacist to keep their details private and confidential, and this is reflected in the draft standards. Pharmacists are reminded not to divulge patients’ details on social media, and make sure any sensitive information is stored as securely as possible.
Mr Rudkin stresses that in order for pharmacy to sell its potential, people must feel "confident" that their privacy is respected. And with increasing pharmacy access to patients' summary care records, it is important that patients understand that pharmacists are working to the same standard of confidentiality as GPs, he points out.
Be prepared to speak up
It can be difficult to raise concerns in a professional setting, but it’s important that pharmacists "challenge poor practice and behaviours" to ensure patient safety. The regulator’s proposals emphasise the importance of speaking up if you have concerns, as well as supporting colleagues who do so.
Develop leadership skills
The ability to lead a team is valued in many professions, and pharmacy is no exception. The proposed standards advocate teamwork, "contributing to the training and development of the team" and acting as a "role model" to pharmacists who have not yet qualified. The standards also stress that pharmacists should never "abuse" their position of authority, or encourage others to abuse theirs.
Share your opinions
The regulator “really wants to get [the standards] right", and have a "rich conversation" with the sector in the process, says Mr Rudkin.
After the consultation closes, Mr Rudkin explains that the regulator will then process and reflect on all the contributions it has received and decide whether to amend the standards in the light of pharmacists' feedback.
He stresses that input from registrants is crucial, and urges everybody to have their say. “Tell us what’s landed well and what’s landed badly so we can make [the guidance] as good as it can be,” he says.