According to an announcement from NPA chief pharmacist Leyla Hannbeck, published on the NPA’s website yesterday (June 29), the letters were sent to "a few" pharmacies and appear to suggest they have not registered with the CQC as a service provider – in breach of Section 10 of the Health and Social Care Act 2008.
Ms Hannbeck confirmed to C+D this morning that "a few contractors have received strongly-worded letters" from the CQC".
In her announcement, she said contractors need to be aware that they should contact the NPA if they receive a letter titled: "Important – concerns suspected criminal offence".
Representatives from the health regulator will be coming to the NPA "over [the] coming weeks" for "in-depth communication" regarding the letters and suspected breaches, Ms Hannbeck told C+D.
Reasons for alleged breach
"Community pharmacies are generally exempted from the requirement to be registered with the CQC," Ms Hannbeck explained in her announcement.
However, if pharmacies provide "regulated activities" such as "treatment of disease, disorder or injury" – as defined under Schedule 1 of the Health and Social Care Act – they may need to be registered with the regulator.
Ms Hannbeck gave the examples of where a community pharmacy and a doctor’s prescribing service are both part of the same legal entity, or where a pharmacy "employs a GP, doctor, or CQC-regulated healthcare professional as part of the community pharmacy business".
"[The letter] also mentions that the CQC can carry out unannounced visits and inspect relevant premises where they suspect a Section 10 offence has been committed; this may include registered pharmacy premises," Ms Hannbeck warned.
She added that the NPA has supported affected members in providing suitable responses to the CQC, and urged concerned contractors to contact the regulator for clarification, "especially if you provide online prescribing services as part of your pharmacy business".
C+D has not received a response from the CQC at time of going to press.