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GPhC to continue to ‘probe’ staffing levels in spite of cuts

Duncan Rudkin: It is not the regulator’s role to have a position on the sector’s funding

General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) inspectors will continue to monitor pharmacies’ staffing levels, despite increased financial pressures caused by funding cuts in England, the regulator has said.

Contractors, superintendents and employee pharmacists should be “ready to demonstrate” during inspections that their staffing levels are safe and that staff are adequately trained for their roles, GPhC chief executive Duncan Rudkin stressed.

They should maintain these levels even after the government’s plans to slash England’s pharmacy funding by £113 million from December, Mr Rudkin told delegates at the GPhC’s central London event on tackling workplace pressures last week (October 18).

The event is the first part of the GPhC’s “programme of work” on the issue.

Mr Rudkin argued that it is not the regulator’s role to “have a position” on the sector’s funding, because it is independent from both the profession and the government.

He accepted that contractors, superintendents and responsible pharmacists will be “considering how to manage the impact” of the cuts. But the GPhC will not issue specific guidance on how pharmacies should be staffed to meet the requirements of different services, he added.

Whatever the “final detail” of the government’s funding plans, staffing levels must remain safe for the services each community pharmacy provides, Mr Rudkin said.

The safety of services should be constantly reviewed and staff should feel “empowered” to raise concerns when necessary, he added.

Opening the event, GPhC chair Nigel Clarke reminded delegates that the regulator’s role is to protect the public, rather than pharmacists.

Mr Clarke said that everyone working for the NHS will be subject to pressures, and branded targets a “reality of working life”.

While workplace pressure could not be resolved at the event alone, he hoped that it would start a “challenging conversation” for the profession, he added

Look out for more from C+D's coverage from the workplace pressures event later this week

Do you expect the funding cuts to affect your staffing levels?

Paul Miyagi, Information Technology

I too complained to GPhC about dire staffing levels.Their response was to tip Boots off I had complained. Nice one GPhC, some things don't change or ever will.

PS. if the editor wants to contact me to varify this, he's welcome.

Jupo Patel, Production & Technical

Keep us updated as to how that pans out as I suspect C&D will want to keep a lid on it. Because from what you're saying it seems reporting to the GPhC is one and the same as reporting to Boots?! And that sounds very much like a potential conflict of interest if you purport to be a regulator.

Paul Miyagi, Information Technology

Oh, ! can tell you exactly what happened . They gave Boots formal notification well in advance when they were going to inspect. Boots doubled staff with 2 extra pharmacists in a store the size of a shoe box. After inspection day, they took all staff away. Hows that . GPhC said there was no case to answer.........Unbelievable complicity !!!!!!

Jonny Johal, Pharmacy Area manager/ Operations Manager

I think we still have 'self-regulation' in Pharmacy - the theory is the GPhC regulates corporate bodies like Boots, the reality is quite the opposite, with companies like Boots regulating the regulator. The superintendents of a few select multiples were given a say in how they would like the regulator to behave (so I was told by my former superintendent, after he went to one of those meetings).

Jupo Patel, Production & Technical

Hmmmm the tail wagging the dog? but who is the tail and who is the dog. Over to you Mr Waldron and C&D. We await your thoughts......

Jonny Johal, Pharmacy Area manager/ Operations Manager

Hahaha, the GPhC is meddling in areas where it has no jurisdiction, or so they said when I complained about dangerously low staffing levels. One can always admire their consistency or one gets the feeling that they don't really know pharmacy practice that much.

Jupo Patel, Production & Technical

I'm sure it's around this time of year some of you flush a few hundred quid straight down the toilet or should say renew your GPhC subscription.

CAPT FX, Locum pharmacist

If anyone had any doubts about Dunc Rudkin's limitations in this role, then this so-called event highlighted how inadequate his insight into the profession is. Firstly how can the GPHC say they can not determine staffing levels whilst at the same time signing off to say they are there to protect the public.

The biggest threat to public safety in retail Pharmacy comes from inadequately trained personnel deployed very thinly on the ground. So in simple language you have someone called a dispenser but barely safe to be dispensing medications serving in roles that are far beyond their capabilities. Then you have the new Phenomena of Non-professional Pharmacy Managers who are basically de-facto Pharmacists particularly the ones who happen to be ACT. As Pharmacists we observe in horror every day when these Managers perform the role of the Pharmacist whilst hiding behind the administrative authority the roles give them. They supervise methadone, issue controlled drugs, albeit subtly and they supervise training of other technicians, some forging Pharmacists signatures and the list goes on. The challenge I pose to any competent GPHC inspector is , catch them and may I add without the invlovement of the BBC or Guardian newspaper.

These are the day to day issues that an Inspector will never pick out in a thousand years because they always naively announce their visits. By the time they come to the Pharmacy all evidence of any indiscretions would have been hidden and disposed thoroughly. What about the unbelievable errors made by ACT Pharmacy Managers? They supervise themselves in real terms ( forget about the poorly and naively conceived Responsible Pharmacist regulation) and they will never ever report anything that portrays them as bad. In actual fact my opinion is that there is need to regulate ACT Pharmacy Managers separately and making them accountable for their errors and professional misdemeanors rather than prosecute an impotent and Powerless so-called Responsible Pharmacist.

These are the real dangers to public safety which Duncan and Co will never ever in their lifetime appreciate or acknowledge. For as long as their inspection protocol and criteria remain the same they will remain as toothless and they will ever be. When talking about staff, they have to be properly trained and with a thorough and full knowledge of their roles and limitations. In my existence one of my Managers was a young person who wanted to dispose medications with regular waste and all I could do was watch because this person was the Manager and represented the Company that owned this product which was to be disposed. My professional protestations were just wayside whimpers supposedly so poorly understood it was too futile to make any contribution.

To Mr Clarke and Mr Rudkin, you said you were going to invite all stakeholders yet you forgot to invite shop floor people who would have given you the kind of factual information upon which policies can be developed. You have and continue to lose this valuable opportunity.

Until you seriously start to engage ordinary people, this is another futile exercise. You will turn for inspections to find everything perfect everywhere you go and then be surprised when fatalities occur in the very public you claim to protect. This is an undisputed fact.

You will probably wonder why information like this is not volunteered? As alluded to in earlier comments The GPHC is and has always been viewed as a bully and an institution impervious to reason. The people who observe issues on the ground particularly ethnic minority and in particular Black Pharmacist know that it is them who will be victimized and this is an undisputed fact. Ominously Mr Clarke signed off by saying the GPHC is not there to protect Pharmacists and need I complete the statement by saying they are essentially there to PROSECUTE them.  

Neeraj Salwan, Superintendent Pharmacist

I think it is incredibly cold hearted of the regulator who knows what pressures pharmacy is facing but cops out by saying basically we have to make sure the public is protected no matter if pharmacies can afford the necessary tools to provide the protection! If we could save the £250 pharmacist registration fee and the the £240 pharmacy premises fee this would help, as Iceland used to say every little helps!!

Leon The Apothecary, Student

So the regulator has effectively said that pharmacy businesses best not get it wrong, but has failed to outline what the criteria is beyond a vague reference. It feels like it is unable or unwilling to make any firm decisions, perhaps this is why many pharmacists feel unrepresented?

Angela Channing, Community pharmacist

Two smug bureaucrats who live in posh London Ivory Towers who probably wouldn't last a day working in a community pharmacy! Downright rude and condescending! Both probably on more money and perks than Theresa May! What do they both DO all day?????!!!! Besides insult us and try and grind us into the ground. 

Shaun Steren, Pharmaceutical Adviser

As an employee, if you are no longer willing to be  treated like rubbish, you have two options:

1) Quit 

2) Join a trade union, get involved and decide to be collectively confrontational and strident. Pass on every piece of inside information and scandal to the newspapers. 

If you are not willing to do either of these two things, suck it up and stop whining.

Jupo Patel, Production & Technical

Option 1. 

Sharon Stone, Communications

Absolutely bang on Shaun. The only way to challenge complicity is to expose it to the media. The multiples know every trick in the book. Worst of all, they are mostly foreign owned and our hard earned tax payers money that they grap as profit goes straight out the country.  

Jaz Kaur, Pharmacy

Mr Clarke is insulting. He has no idea what pressures pharmacists are under and so should not judge. - total arrogant condescending bureaucrat

fatnose pansies, Sales

Duncan Rudkin said "It is not for the regulator to set staffing levels; pharmacy owners must consider how many staff are needed within each individual pharmacy". But how does the GPhC form an opinion on staffing levels when it's doing pharmacy inspections? Does it just accept whatever the owner decides?

Leon The Apothecary, Student

I agree with you. There should be a clear definition for what pharmacies should have in terms of staffing levels. With clarity comes the ability to plan ahead and forecast accurately.

fatnose pansies, Sales

To complete the sentence with the obvious ending: Mr Clarke said that everyone working for the NHS will be subject to pressures, and branded targets a “reality of working life”, so pharmacists will just have to put up with it.

Sharon Stone, Communications

Don't be misled by this headline. The GPhC will continue to "probe" staffing levels and then what ????  They have no jurisdiction to make any business do anything and for years have known about under-staffing and have done nothing.

Leon The Apothecary, Student

It's it effective? Could the NHS save money by downsizing and restructuring the regulatory body?

Mr V, Community pharmacist

"Nigel Clarke reminded delegates that the regulator’s role is to protect the public, rather than pharmacists"

Fair enough, but why do the pharmacists have to foot the bill and not the public? 40,000 pharmacists paying ~£250 = £10mil/year.. Is there a breakdown of how this money is spent?

A Hussain, Senior Management

Got it in one.  See how much the public are willing to pay for what they do?! So detached from the real world.  I love paying you to look down from up above waiting to kick me when I'm down.

Priyesh Desai, Superintendent Pharmacist

a fair amount goes to finance their canary wharf offices! whats a body like such doing in a place like this?

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

One possible consolation of the funding cuts - if there are less pharmacies and pharmacists paying their dues, some of the GPhC might have to be made redundant as well - bitter, moi?

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

Wouldn't really expect anything less from them. As per usual, average Joe Pharmacist is a nice soft target who won't squeal too loudly, unlike the multiples who seem to have the GPhC running scared

Valentine Trodd, Community pharmacist

So the GPhC are responding to the "workplace pressures" concerns by putting more pressure on pharmacists!? Unbelievable. No mention of target based pressure, MURS, etc. What a white wash! 

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