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Patient confidentiality enters top 5 most common inspection issues

Computer screen on a pharmacy counter
GPhC: Common confidentiality issues include leaving prescriptions on the counter

Issues with patient confidentiality have for the first time entered the top five areas failed in pharmacy inspections, according to the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC).

Pharmacy standard 1.7 – ensuring “information is managed to protect the privacy, dignity and confidentiality of patients and the public” – was not met by 20 pharmacies inspected between October and December 2017, the regulator said in council papers published last month.

This made it the joint-fourth most commonly failed standard over this period, alongside ensuring “the safety and quality of pharmacy services are regularly reviewed and monitored”.

“Typical” patient confidentiality issues seen by GPhC inspectors included “prescription forms being left on the medicines counter”, as well as “cases where the consultation room was being used for additional dispensing space, but without appropriate precautions being taken to protect patient data”, the GPhC added.

“It is too early to draw any conclusions on why the standard that relates to patient confidentiality has been elevated into the top five standards not met in this quarter,” the GPhC stressed in the document, “but we will continue to monitor this to see if this is a continuing trend.”

The rise in patient confidentiality issues knocked a standard on maintaining “all necessary records for the safe provision of pharmacy services” out of the top five unmet standards for the first time in 12 months.

Of the 991 inspections completed in October-December 2017, the most commonly unmet standard was ensuring “the risks associated with providing pharmacy services are identified and managed” (see below), which 28 pharmacies failed, the GPhC continued.

”Confidentiality is hugely important”

In an exclusive interview last week (February 20), GPhC chief executive Duncan Rudkin told C+D that the regulator had learned from focus groups that “confidentiality is a hugely important topic for members of the public”.

“There is possibly greater awareness generally among the public of patient confidentiality issues, [as] it's in the media on a daily basis,” he continued.

“Over the course of the next year, you'll expect to see more from us on information and ideas emerging from the GPhC on how inspections should continue to adapt to meet the changing context.”

Mr Rudkin added that pharmacies should prepare for the implementation of new EU data protection rules on May 25 – the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). You can read lawyer David Reissner’s article today on how pharmacies must prepare for GDPR here.

What are the top five most common inspection issues?

According to the GPhC council papers the most common unmet standards for October–December 2017 were:

1. The risks associated with providing pharmacy services are identified and managed (standard 1.1)

2. Medicines and medical devices are: obtained from a reputable source; safe and fit for purpose; stored securely; safeguarded from unauthorized access; supplied to the patient safely; and disposed of safely and securely (standard 4.3)

3. Pharmacy services are managed and delivered safely and effectively (standard 4.2)

4. The safety and quality of pharmacy services are regularly reviewed and monitored (standard 1.2)

5. Information is managed to protect the privacy, dignity and confidentiality of patients and the public who receive pharmacy services (standard 1.7)

14 Comments
Question: 
What technological developments pose risks to patient confidentiality?

Brian Austen, Senior Management

All errors and ommissions should be dealt with equitably and their investigation and reporting lead to remedial action and improvements in patient safety, clinical governance and information governance. The regulators need to set standards and then transparently enforce standards. They don't seem able to do this, which is why it is likely that they will be subsumed into one regulator responsible for all health and social care. Hopefully this will create a fairer system without pharmacy politics.

Leon The Apothecary, Student

At the risk of sounding like I'm continuing my tirade against fax machines, let us stop using outdated telefacsimile technology in favour of the far superior email since we've all got NHS mail accounts now.

Mohammed Patel, Community pharmacist

Patient confidentiality, much like accurate OTC advice and sales, are crucial.

But we should not be surprised that cracks are appearing given the disgraceful state of the profession. In particular, workplace stress, intimidation to perform services, lack of adequate staffing and being expected to perform superhuman shifts without a break.

When I was a locum few years ago, I contacted the area manager of the chain, and asked if I could go out for lunch on a 12 hour shift. He told me no, and if I did, they would find someone who could do the shift in my place and dock my pay.

The problems we are seeing now are secondary to the real issues in the UK pharmacy industry and the sooner the people who have real influence see this, the sooner we can correct it and start giving patients the service they deserve.

It is very clear, in my humble opinion, that the UK pharmacy industry has too many senior people with their dirty snouts in the trough. If we stopped paying so much cash to the top people there would be more money for patients. They know very well who they are.

We are under the kosh from greedy people who only want to build extensions on their holiday home in some luxury location (NOT the UK), and all UK pharmacists are paying for it whether they like it or not.

Healthcare professsionals are supposed to care about their patients, and I must admit that most are genuine in that regard.

When will we stop being dicatated to by people with no pharmacy qualifications from their yacht in Monaco? The answer is never because nobody has the teeth to tackle the profiteering, greedy, self-serving people who control the industry.

These people are feathering their own nests at our expense. It should be considered to be fraud and theft, but nobody wants to rock the boat!

The GPhC seem impotent on the matter, so lets hope that HMRC (who seem to be far more up to date and proactive) can sniff out the people who are destroying our careers. The GPhC only ever produce reactive knee-jerk behaviour, and I just thank God that the police don't behave like that. Otherwise the country would become a criminal's haven.

I am not holding my breath.

Ben Merriman, Community pharmacist

You forgot:

6. Selling patient data to Australian lottery companies

7. Using "misleading" and "confusing" advertising campaigns that lead to patients going without medicines for up to several days.

8. Complete shut down of all operations leading to patients risking going without medicines over Christmas 2016-17

Dave Downham, Manager

errr....wrong thread?

Ilove Pharmacy, Non Pharmacist Branch Manager

Wrong publication even. C&D are not interested in any misdemeanours by Pharmacy2U, Boots and the like it seems.

Mohammed Patel, Community pharmacist

I wonder why that could be......

Ilove Pharmacy, Non Pharmacist Branch Manager

Mysteriously this is not on the GPhC agenda. Much like he mystery of the editor forgetting to feature the Boots incident in Basingstoke despite the FACT it was featured in national press and NHS medicine errors have been also been featured on the television. Hmmmmm....

Mohammed Patel, Community pharmacist

Obviosuly there was a reason why Waldron didn't publish that one. Far easier to do 5-6 articles on that ridiculous Which? report.

A sign of the times.

Only tackle the easy issues. Keep collecting that paycheck. Forget the suckers working in patient-facing roles who are slowly being brought to their knees. Anyway, who actually cares about the people doing the real work for the industry when you can keep highlighting where they are not performing instead of actually understanding why this is happening?

Abraham Lincoln managed to abolish slavery in what was essentialy a large English colony in 1865. But it appears tha slavery is still rife in the UK pharmacy industry. Dark times indeed.

My advice would be to get out as quickly as you can. It's a completely corrupt industry.

Ilove Pharmacy, Non Pharmacist Branch Manager

Quite embarrassing for a supposedly serious publication. I look forward to Waldron's next article on an unfortunate slip up by a pharmacist......

Mohammed Patel, Community pharmacist

Waldron is not even a pharmacist.......

So how can he actually understand what is going on?

It's a bit like me becoming the editor of "Cross-Stitch Monthly" when I have never picked up a knitting needle in my life.

Dave Downham, Manager

Yep - and there's a lot of pharmacists on here who ain't businesswomen, realists or on planet earth.

Ilove Pharmacy, Non Pharmacist Branch Manager

Perfectly sums up the pathetic state of pharmacy in general.

Leon The Apothecary, Student

That one made me chuckle there. Well played.

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