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GPhC should ‘test’ if pharmacy managers are ‘fit and proper’, says PDA

GPhC is currently reviewing all responses to its consultation
GPhC is currently reviewing all responses to its consultation

Pharmacy owners and senior managers should be assessed on whether they are “fit and proper”, the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) has said.

The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) “must use its powers to hold pharmacy owners and superintendents to account”, the PDA said in its response to a GPhC consultation on guidance “to ensure a safe and effective pharmacy team”.

This should include introducing a “test for superintendent pharmacists, pharmacy owners and those in positions of responsibility in pharmacy – such as senior managers – to assess whether or not they are – and remain – fit and proper persons to hold their positions of responsibility”, the PDA suggested.

The GPhC should also create a “register” to help “facilitate” the testing of these roles, the PDA said in its response, published yesterday (October 19).

“The best way to protect patients is to underpin the professionalism of the pharmacist,” the PDA added.

Background to the GPhC consultation

The GPhC's consultation – which it launched in July – was prompted by a range of work over the last five years, including a series of online workshops on “what quality means in pharmacy practice”, and feedback from its consultations on professional and educational standards, the regulator told C+D at the time.

It is the first time the GPhC has set out in proposed guidance what pharmacy owners should do to ensure non-registrant managers understand their responsibilities and the responsibilities of the wider pharmacy team, the GPhC added.

"Chaotic" approach to staff training

As part of its consultation, the GPhC also proposed that accountability for the training of both registered and unregistered staff should sit with pharmacy owners, rather than itself.

If the guidance is approved, the GPhC will cease to accredit dispensing and medicines counter assistant courses. Instead, pharmacy owners will become responsible for selecting appropriate training for their staff, it explained.

However, the PDA stressed “the GPhC must continue to set the training requirements” for pharmacy staff, to avoid a “chaotic and inconsistent approach throughout Great Britain as to the quality of training”.

“In our view, the proposals will mean that there will be no defined, common pharmacy roles other than ‘pharmacist’ and ‘pharmacy technician’,” the PDA said in its consultation response.

“It also means that ‘pharmacy technician’ will become the least-qualified role which is nationally recognised in pharmacy. Such a change in the pharmacy workforce would need a much wider discussion on the roles of pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and pharmacy support staff,” it added.

The GPhC told C+D this morning that it is reviewing all of the responses it has received since the consultation closed on October 11. The regulator's council will discuss the details and make its decisions in due course, it added.

Read the GPhC’s Consultation on guidance to ensure a safe and effective pharmacy team in full here.

Read the PDA’s response to this consultation here.

What do you make of the PDA's response?

Jonny Johal, Pharmacy Area manager/ Operations Manager

Has anything changed? The last time I brought the subject up with an inspector (of the GPhC), she told me that the GPhC does not have powers to regulate non-pharmacists!

Locum Pharmacist, Locum pharmacist

The GPhC themselves are unfit for purpose and a waste of fees- they fail to realise that employers hold all the power when it comes to running pharmacies and the days of pharmacists owning and running pharmacies are unfortunately long gone thanks to the multiples. Even so, any problems in the pharmacy are blamed on employee/locum pharmacists as apparently it's their resposibility to regulate their employers, not the GPhC's.

Gerry Diamond, Primary care pharmacist

Hmm, well dispensing assistants or dispensers can do an NVQ and assemble prescriptions, put away stock, etc. These roles will remain unregulated, as they are now. Technicians will be regulated and registered as before, sounds like status quo and the NVQs or certification can be replaced by inhouse training and a certficate for completing the induction process as a dispenser or pharmacy assistant as some companies do now. It would be a matter of portability and recognition by another chemist employer that maybe the main there you go..

Ilove Pharmacy, Non Pharmacist Branch Manager

Boots = GPhC

Boots = RPS


Rubicon Mango, Academic pharmacist

The only viable solution will aids both the vast majority of the registrants and the public is to nationalise all Pharmacy services. Sounds communist? But in what world do we accept that tax payers money can go into the hands of private owners, whom a large number have never worked in Pharmacy. This is not just a Pharmacy issue, but an econmic issue and considering we are in a recession, we have never left, tax payers money needs to be safeguarded. If the government care about patient safety, about the NHS and its staff, then it can easily by pass current operating pharmacies with nationalised NHS pharmacies. The public will choose to support the tax payer and these Pharmacies can employ an adequate number of staff, even busy Pharmacies can employ 2 Pharmacists. These pharmacies wont be chasing MUR and NMS for targets but rather for clinical need and the money the pharmacy makes bar staff wages will go back to the NHS reducing the NHS expenditure on overall pharmacy per year. It is a viable econmic model and one in which the majority of the public will support, The idea of monopolies and competition between private contractors is lost, at the end of the day, the patient wants their medication, and wants it quick.

CAPT FX, Locum pharmacist

I applaud this idea. Wonderful piece of thinking. This reflects my thinking and observation after almost 20 years of watching my profession devalued by the profit motive of these Multiples. 

There is no doubt that the NHS budget is limited. There is also no doubt that the money and profit  to be derived from the NHS is finite. There is no doubt at all that the Management and executive skills of most Pharmacy Multiples are glaringly so inadequate.

Professional standards have fallen to such level that a country as well respected as the UK 10 years ago can not be spoken of in the same breath as Guatemala. Financial imperatives determine the quality of personell you have. Most Multiples opted for the Non-Professional Managers role. A good idea when mooted because it was to save them money whilst having the professional status of the Pharmacist. But then in reality the Non-Professional Manager became the ultimate professional in the Branch. The Responsible Pharmacist regulation has become moribund and the quality of service and profesionalism in a Branch is determined by the experience and education of the Manager. Suffice to say 99% of the Managers I have worked with actually think you can write an official document using mobile text language.

English is my second language and I had to learn how to speak and write the language. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine that a person speaking the language can not put together a letter or document in their mother language. At the same time I never imagined any company would appoint such a person to the title Manager. The quality of service we provide has sufferred badly because these people leading us are not qualified to lead. To make matters worse they stiffle what the Pharmacist can and must do. Anything they do not know does not exist and they know in most cases next to nothing. The Majority of these Managers have serious challenges adapting to new developments and Pharmacy is a fast paced and dynamic profession. The new Quality Payments scenario has been phenomenal. If anyone was recording, the comedy would beat "Only Fools and Horses" hands down. But we have to make do with this arrangement because this is what the Multiples want. Pharmacists countrywide have to tread deftly and tactfully around these bosses to ensure the deliver the service patients deserve. Its frustrating but then the reality is that a person can only understand that which their mind can deal with and in most cases I feel sad for the Managers lack of capacity and knowledge. I think this is cruel for those who thrust responsibility on such people. You walk into a Pharmacy and find the same Manager talking about being stressed out in the morning long before the day has started. Yes, they are stressed because they are not qualified to carry out the role of a Manager in a modern profession like Pharmacy. 

Community Pharmacy in the UK is so lacking in technology. In 2017 the majority of tools that expedite the dispensing service is so manual at times you question why we have computers. Patients look in disgust whilst Pharmacists, technicians and assistants graple and look through torn and tattered cardex cards to trace where prescriptions are. Yet the post office next door, or DPD that delivers to us, will provide a tracking number which you can use on your Smart watch, Mobile Phone, Computer or even wide screen smart TV at home. EPS1 and EPS2 was preceeded by generous infrastructure payments which were targeted at acquiring Computer software and hardware. Yet the biggest Multiple by numbers in our profession still boast of an early 1990 upgraded  hard drive whose RAM is still around 252MB. Total disc storage probably aroung 500MB. The Computers are so sluggish that you will pick up 20 items from the shelf whilst waiting for the equally outdated printer to spit ou the label. Extend the same scenario to nursing home dispensing and record keeping and you have a perfect nightmare. Nursing Homes and Doctors send faxes  to fax machines using ribbon technology for cartridges. At times you rewind the same ribbon four times because our erstwhile Managers was too stressed to remember to order a new one. Most utilities in Pharmacies are improvised and most dispensaries I have worked in were not purpose built. You can not find proper disposal facilities like bins and despite regulatory requirements they do not have washing facilities. You waste effort and time trying to deal with such basic issues before you even contemplate the service you are there to provide. Now people talk about services like MURS, NMS and the now popular Flu service. Whilst the law stipulates minimum requirements for these services, most of them are not met or are improvised. Consultation rooms serve as storage, Managers office, and storage for staff possessions. Barely can the Pharmacist have the privacy that is required to provide any service there. Remember the last word always comes from the Manager who is always contemptous of our regulations.

I buy groceries from Supermakets like Morrisons and Tesco and I am surprised they attract graduate young boys as girls to work in their various departments. Yet Community Pharmacy is allergic to educated young people. They actually avoid them. Most Managers avoid recruiting anyone that they feel threaten their position. Same explanation why there is always friction between Managers and Pharmacists. Most young people dont stay or last long. Its hardly surprising that every month most branches have someone new starting because Community Pharmacy does not pay staff to stay and make a living out of their positions. They are always complaining that the Pharmacy contract is not enough.

One notable observation is the proliferation of  poorly designed and thought out planograms. No consideration is given to which products will sell over the counter in different localities. There is no creativity and Pharmacists get frustrated in winter when there are no products to recommend. The Front shop which include GSL, P products ,cosmetics and now sports items , is a tremendous area where creative people can maximise profits. Childcare is another wonderful growth area where proper product selection can optimise returns.

In summary, the Pharmacy contract is said to be inadequate by the Multiples that they can not

1. Recruit Properly Qualified Non-Pharmacist Managers with Management qualifications.

2. Invest in hardware and software consistent with today's technology so as to provide the best service.

3. Invest in training for staff who will secure the future of this profession.

There is no doubt that the quality of service in every aspect is negatively affected by the need for higher profit margins which the NHS can not sustain. I agree with your suggestion to nationalise Community Pharmacy outlets and convert them into public dispensaries. At least the Tax payer will not have to worry about Boots or Lloydspharmacy continuing to use typewriters after giving them money for Computers. Its such a shame domination of proceedings by Multiples who are not re-investing their profits has brought the profession to its knees. The idea being mooted to get Owners to be responsible for Staff training is another nightmare. I see them throwing even more poorly trained staff than we have now. Their idea of training are unsupervised module dumped onto intranets and grandmothers can have anyone to help them with assessments. No one determines their competence and no one tests them.

The ultimate solution even after nationalisation is to make the PHARMACIST the PROFFESSIONAL and leader of Pharmacies in every aspect. Its not communism but practical reality. Why should Pharmacy be perfused with Managers who are not Pharmacists and are not adding value to our service. As we stand we dont deserve to be called or be paid as a profession.

S J- Locum, Locum pharmacist

I know multiplies that employ foreign pharmacizts who can just about understand english and no management experience employed as managers and area managers. Utter disaster. The staff being treated appallingly and vice versa.

When locums who are very professional and tried to do a job professionally are complained about to the locumboard and treated with indignity, disrespect. Then the staff complain even more and the ;ocum is suffering alone, You work up to 10 hours in a branch, Get no MORE than 20 minute break - YES THAT'S TRUE. Chairs have been removed by the area managers. The pharmacist and nowhere to sit and rest/relax. Locumboard have so much power to do what they want to Locums. Management turn a blind eye/ We have suffered so much that some of us are psycologically affected for ever 

There IS NO ONE who listens to us.  SAD SAD SAD........

Honest Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

100% agree with the PDA's response.

The GPhC's "guidance" on what "should" take place is not fit for purpose. They need to set "standards" on what "must" take place, to ensure to is enforceable and adhered to at all times. Also the term "appropriate" (e.g. in reference to staffing levels) is too vague, and it will be all too easily abused, especially by the large multiples. It needs to be set out in black and white so that it cannot be interpreted to suit their "business" needs, rather than the "patient's" needs to ensure the safe and effective delivery of patient care.

It is also interesting, although sadly not surprising, to hear that since the GPhC was established in 2010, there has not been a single FtP case against a registrant for a failure to comply with the Standards of Registered Pharmacies. Rather that it's focus has been on the Standards for Pharmacy Professionals, as far as individual registrants and standards are concerned.  

The GPhC need to start rebuilding trust and confidence with its members, it needs to become a council that is fair and trustworthy for it's individual members and the public, rather than always putting the "business" of the large multiples first. 





Ilove Pharmacy, Non Pharmacist Branch Manager

Could you pose how this might occur given that the GPhC is a Canary Wharf based branch of Boots?

CAPT FX, Locum pharmacist

You have hit the nail on the head. My thoughgts precisely LOL

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