The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) wrote to five pharmacy organisations across the sector after evidence collected “over recent months” revealed its premises standard – which requires pharmacies to have “enough staff, suitably qualified and skilled, for the safe and effective provision of pharmacy services” – was one of the most common areas failed in pharmacy inspections, for the second quarter in a row.
This standard was not met by 29 pharmacies between April and June 2018 – two more than over the previous three months, the regulator said in its latest council meeting papers.
The GPhC wrote to the Company Chemists’ Association (CCA) – which represents the UK’s largest multiples – the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp), the National Pharmacy Association (NPA), Community Pharmacy Scotland (CPS), and Community Pharmacy Wales (CPW) earlier this month, to ask what steps their members are taking to meet its standards on staffing.
All five organisations confirmed to C+D they have received the letter from the regulator, and are collating information from their members to send to the GPhC.
When asked by C+D how much of an issue staffing is, and how its members measure staffing levels, Russell Goodway, CPW chief executive, said: “Individual contractors will staff their pharmacies to suit the conditions on the ground.”
However, in some parts of the country, “contractors report difficulty in recruiting pharmacists and pharmacy technicians, and also difficulties in obtaining locum cover”, he added.
The organisation has circulated details of the GPhC’s letter to contractors and “requested their input to assess the situation across Wales”, Mr Goodway said.
Caroline Rooks, CPS public affairs officer, said the organisation’s members “vary in size and locations, which creates completely different requirements in terms of ways of working”.
CPS is “more than willing” to work more closely with the GPhC “to fully understand the extent and nature of the challenges” in relation to staffing outlined in the letter, she added.
Patient safety remains priority
Helga Mangion, NPA policy manager, said: “Despite funding pressures placing more strain on community pharmacy, pharmacy teams continue to provide excellent patient-centred care.
“Patient safety will always be the priority for local pharmacies,” she added, and said the NPA is “supportive of the new pharmacy team guidance set by the GPhC”.
The CCA did not confirm how much of an issue staffing is for its members, but chief executive Malcom Harrison said the organisation is “committed” to working with the GPhC and “welcomes [the regulator’s] recent intervention on the important issue of safe and effective pharmacy teams”.
“We already have an open dialogue with the regulator and are keen to continue supporting their work in this area.”
Diane Moss, AIMp general manager, said the organisation would be “considering [its] response” at its next board meeting, and will be responding to the GPhC once it has gathered relevant information from its members.
The GPhC published guidance on ensuring a safe and effective pharmacy team in June, which includes what pharmacy owners are expected to do in relation to safe staffing.