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PSNC: Unannounced pharmacy inspections 'unnecessary and undesirable'

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The GPhC is "now carefully considering all the feedback"

The regulator’s proposal to conduct unannounced pharmacy inspections is “unnecessary and undesirable”, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) has said.

The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) proposed making inspections “unannounced as a general rule” – a shift from the current policy of giving advance notice of between four and six weeks – in a consultation that closed last week.

In a statement published on Monday (August 13), PSNC director of operations and support Gordon Hockey said: “The proposal to introduce unannounced visits seems unnecessary and may not help to improve safety.

“Far better for pharmacies to be able to plan their staffing around inspections, allowing them to be free to give the inspectors their full attention.”

Managing workloads ahead of inspection

Routine, announced inspections allow pharmacy teams to manage their workloads so that “sufficient time” can be dedicated to “important functions of the inspection process – such as making improvements to patient safety” on the day of inspection, PSNC added in its response to the GPhC's consultation.

While the negotiator “supports the overall intention” to move to an inspection model more similar to the Care Quality Commission's (CQC), “other healthcare professions do get notice of inspections”, and said the GPhC inspection regime should follow the same principles of the CQC model.

PSNC added that in “appropriate circumstances” unannounced visits “could help establish patient confidence in the GPhC”.

According to its guide to inspection preparation, CQC inspections are “always unannounced, unless there is a good reason to let you know that we are coming”.

GPhC “considering all feedback”

In response to PSNC’s concerns, the GPhC told C+D yesterday (August 15) it is “grateful to everyone who responded” to the consultation and is “now carefully considering all the feedback”.

“We will be publishing a report on this to [the] council in due course,” it added.

The GPhC has also proposed publishing inspection reports of individual pharmacies on a new website. Read the consultation in full here.

9 Comments
Question: 
How do you feel about unannounced pharmacy inspections?

Female Tech, Pharmacy technician

If you have nothing to hide, you should have nothing to fear from unannounced visits.

RS Pharmacist, Primary care pharmacist

The Announced Community Pharmacy Inspection story in a Nutshell.

1. Pharmacy receive letter that they will be inspected in the next six weeks

2. Branch Manager notifies area manager.

3. Area Manager sends in the reinforcements and the Professional Standards Pharmacist.

4. Inspector comes in and signs off the pharmacy.

5. Reinforcements are recalled.

6. Poor standards continue.

Benjamin DeCostas, Administration & Support

You forgot to mention that if the inspector is due in, some chains will force you to do internal audits over and over again until you score 100%. Some of the chain's internal audits are more stringent and rtidiculous than the inspectors. I won't mention any names but if you know someone who rides horses you'll know what I'm talking about.

Peter Sainsburys, Community pharmacist

Surprise visits are much better. One of the main issues with working for the large multiples is totally inadequate and dangerous staffing levels. Of course, if they know the inspector is due in, they might get extra staff over from other branches for a week or two to make it look like they are fine. After the inspection everything goes back to dangerously understaffed again.

Meera Sharma, Primary care pharmacist

Spot on! I've had visits which were known, and amazingly staff days used to be swapped round, and suddenly the pharmacy used to be overflowing with staff. Not the same story on the other 364 days a year!! I'm all in favour of unannounced visits, but only if the GPhC is going to do somethign about the findings - otherwise it's a waste of everyone's time!

Peter Sainsburys, Community pharmacist

I'm sure they will take action against independents and smaller chains, but history shows that they are reluctant to tackle the larger chains. Either they are scared of their legal teams, or something else is going on behind the scenes, which wouldn't suprise me at all.

A regulator who won't regulate the biggest players in the industry is about as much use as t*ts on a fish.

Benjamin DeCostas, Administration & Support

And it appears that the PSA are just as bad, so not likely to get any kind of result any time soon, I'm afraid. Inept, corrupt and lazy.

The profession in a nutshell. Fingers up to everyone else, as long as I'm getting paid mega bucks who cares about those idiot pharmacists?

And the thing about pharmacy is that it is supposed to be transparent, there is supposed to be a "no-blame" culture. It's laughable. The pharmacy industry is about as transparent as the rock of Gibraltar. The industry is full of people with fingers in many pies who are corrupt to the core.

All these intelligent young people are studying at University for years, just so that they can pay for some rich, fat, guy's next Botticelli painting for his yacht.

It should be a crime what is going on in this industry, the patient facing professionals losing their livihood whilst people in suits run away with all the money to places live Monaco or San Marino.

Pharmacy graduates are basically being robbed, they have the skills, but someone else is getting the money.

Mr CAUSTIC, Community pharmacist

although at the moment they give notice i have yet to have an inspection in the notice period . they are always  carried out some time  after the notice period. the advantage of giving notice is one can have all the paperwork prepared . without notice there will be disruption to routine work  as one plays hunt the SOP etc.

Leon The Apothecary, Student

Shouldn't make a difference. Standards are standards because they are standard, not because they are not standard standards. If you have non-standard standards that are not up to standard, one should question your standards, if not the inspector looking at your non-standard standards, but you yourself at your standard standards.

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