Earlier this year the PSI launched its Corporate Strategy 2018-2020 (we have published a summary of the main points of the strategy here). The key points to take away from this strategy document are that the PSI will be seeking amendments to the Pharmacy Act 2007 during the lifetime of the document as well as developing new standards for various areas of practice and developing a new code of conduct. It is very likely that the PSI will hold a public consultation process in relation to each of these items and pharmacists and organisations representing pharmacists should be alive to the fact that invitations for submissions may be forthcoming in the short to medium term.
There have been some interesting recent developments in relation to pharmacy regulation in the UK.
In April of this year the Pharmacy (Preparation and Dispensing Errors - Registered Pharmacies) Order 2018 was commenced. This order gives a statutory footing to defences for inadvertent preparation and dispensing errors by pharmacists. The statutory defence is primarily for use in civil actions, but its use as a defence in fitness to practise proceedings cannot be ruled out. Its primary purpose is to encourage greater reporting of errors, thereby allowing for the further development of learning opportunities for pharmacists resulting in safer practice. In addition, at the same time as welcoming the commencement of the new legislation, the General Pharmaceutical Council ("GPhC") confirmed that in a general context it would not view a single instance of a dispensing error a fitness to practise matter save in exceptional circumstances. In light of this comment by the GPhC, it will be interesting to see how it treats single dispensing errors in the future and the types of cases that may be considered by the GPhC as exceptional circumstances.
A further piece of legislation, the Pharmacy (Premises Standards, Information Obligations, etc.) Order 2016, was commenced in May 2018. This order strengthens the powers of the GPhC to regulate pharmacies including the power to publish inspection reports as well as strengthening other enforcement powers.
In this regard, the GPhC launched a consultation process last month in relation to its proposals to change its approach to the regulation of pharmacies. The consultation process focuses on the types of inspections being carried out by the GPhC and the desired outcomes from these inspections. It appears that the GPhC hopes that the proposed new approach will improve pharmacy practice and enhance patient safety.
A revised Code of Ethics was introduced in early 2018 by The Pharmacy Council. An interesting aspect of the new Code is that it brings the area of complementary and/or alternative medicine within its remit through the integration of its Complementary and Alternative Medicine Protocol into the Code. The purpose of the protocol is to place a greater level of responsibility on pharmacists who recommend complementary and/or alternative medicines over more traditional medicines. This is in circumstances where the former is relatively unregulated and therefore, taking action against persons recommending the use of complementary and alternative medicines inappropriately can be very difficult. It will be interesting to observe into the future how the regulator in New Zealand will deal with complaints relating to complementary and/or alternative medicines supplied by a pharmacist.