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Plans for responsible pharmacists to supervise multiple sites delayed

DH board chair Ken Jarrold: There is still work left to make sure we have got it right
DH board chair Ken Jarrold: There is still work left to make sure we have got it right

Government plans to allow regulators to determine when a pharmacist is responsible for more than one pharmacy have been pushed back following consultation concerns.

A raft of proposals aimed at “clarifying” the role of superintendent and responsible pharmacists was set out by the Department of Health and Social Care (DH) programme board tasked with "rebalancing" medicines legislation and pharmacy regulation in June.

Among the proposals, the board suggested “retaining [the] general rule that a pharmacist can only be the responsible pharmacist for one pharmacy at the same time”. However, it plans to pass regulators “power to specify an exception” to this rule.

The board also proposed removing the restriction for a superintendent pharmacist to oversee “only one retail pharmacy business” and for pharmacy regulators to “set professional standards for superintendents, which extend beyond the sale and supply of medicines, to other pharmacy services”.

The draft legislation changes were due to be laid before parliament in December 2018, but this has now been pushed back to March 2019, the board said on Monday (October 29).

Responses to the DH’s consultation – which closed on September 11 – “raised areas that require further consideration and clarification”, it said.

Confidential discussions

The board would not disclose to C+D the specific areas of concern raised in the consultation responses that has prompted the delay, and stressed that discussions remain confidential.

However, in its response to the consultation, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) said while it was in favour of allowing regulators to make exceptions to the rule, a responsible pharmacist should be allowed to be in charge of more than one pharmacy “only in emergencies”.

See how the other pharmacy bodies responded to this question in the consultation below.

The board will meet again “shortly” to consider the issues raised and aims to publish its response to the consultation before the end of the year, it told C+D.

The board’s “partners forum” will meet again in early 2019, which will provide further opportunity to discuss the draft proposals with stakeholders, it added.

"Still work to do"

Board chair Ken Jarrold said: “It was good to see a high level of engagement in responding to the consultation.

“The board is giving full consideration to what we heard, and there is still work left to do to make sure we have got it right.”

How did the other pharmacy bodies respond?

In its consultation, the DH board asked: Do you agree that the pharmacy regulators should have the power to make an exception to the general rule that a responsible pharmacist can only be in charge of one pharmacy at one time?

The National Pharmacy Association (NPA): Consultation “rationale is unclear”

“The NPA policy does not support remote supervision, for example for the responsible pharmacist to be in charge of more than one pharmacy at one time.

“It is unclear from the rationale outlined in this consultation as to the criteria that would be presented in order for the regulator to make an exception to this rule. The NPA asks as to whether this would be in routine circumstances or in exceptional cases such as adverse weather conditions or a ‘major incident’ situation.”

Read the NPA’s response in full here.

The Company Chemists’ Association (CCA): Change rules only in “rare force majeure exceptions”

“Overall, we continue to support the principle of ‘one pharmacy, one pharmacist’ because to remove this would be to materially change the role and nature of the responsible pharmacist.

“However, we agree in principle that pharmacy regulators should have the power to make exceptions to the rule that responsible pharmacists can only be in charge of one pharmacy at a time.

“We could particularly envisage that there may be some rare force majeure exceptions where the responsibilities of the actual or intended responsible pharmacist could be temporarily taken on by a pharmacist already fulfilling the duties at another pharmacy.”

Read the CCA’s response in full here.

The Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA): Patient safety is at risk

“This would create an unacceptable risk to patient safety and expose pharmacists unfairly to criminal and civil prosecution and regulatory sanctions, in working conditions that at present are poorly regulated, and for activities that occur in pharmacies in which they are not even present.”

Read the PDA’s response in full here.


Read Mr Jarrold's blog on why he believes clarity is necessary around the superintendent and responsible pharmacist roles. 

What do you make of the proposals?

RS Pharmacist, Primary care pharmacist

This should never happen and if it does then the full force of Pharmacist must rise from the ashes like a phoenix and stop this…. Or just launch another High Court Case like the funding cuts… loose the case… and then pretend to learn from the mistakes and vow to never let this happen again!  

John Ellis, Community pharmacist

Why is this legislation needed? It's not as though we currently have a shortage of pharmacists to adequately cover each pharmacy. Yet again we have another clear case of the larger multiples putting profit before patient safety.

Beta Blocker, Primary care pharmacist

The beginning of the end...

Leon The Apothecary, Student

Why are discussions being kept confidential? In the spirit of maintaining an open and honest atmosphere that is frequently advocated, this seems quite contradictory to that, in my opinion.

Chris Locum, Locum pharmacist

Pharmacists are required to have a duty of candour. They (DoH) don't. Only charlatans profit from predicting the future. Ultimately, the future is not looking rosy for a future career in community pharmacy. Glad I left. I saw it coming like many others. Consider a CHANGE OF CAREER if you can. It is your future at stake behind their closed doors. Good luck.

Abid P, Primary care pharmacist

That will be the multiples pushing their own agenda yet again for profit. If you allow them an inch they will take a mile. Cannot be allowed to happen under any circumstances.

Chris Locum, Locum pharmacist

If these proposals are not DESTROYED, someone's prospects will be. Good luck to all. Many of you will need it if these ideas are not paraded for the public to see the danger to THEM.

C A, Community pharmacist

The CCA (the voice of the multiples) has come out against it, except in rare force majeure cases. Are you sure it's not the DH idea, since they can't differentiate between pharmacies and pharmacists? (If all pharmacies are open all the time, surely DH can save costs as they won't need so many pharmacies, they still haven't managed to close the 3,000 they mentioned!)

Adam Hall, Community pharmacist

I don't understand how someone can safely oversee the work being carried out in a different pharmacy. It's bad enough that dispensing doctors are able to abdicate the dispensing to a technician with no oversight without us following blindly down the same route. Don't get me wrong, I'm not against change and improvement but I fail to see where this is an improvement

C A, Community pharmacist

"I don't understand how someone can safely oversee the work being carried out in a different pharmacy."

Simples - SOPs!

Pick the right medication in the right formulation and the right strength,  with the right expiry, for the right patient at the right time and give it to the right patient or their verifiably right representitive, and make sure they have the right evidence of any expemptions (add any other right commandments you need)

So many rights can't be wrong surely?  ;)

Benie Locum, Locum pharmacist

Depends on your definition of improvement.

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