Duncan Rudkin and GPhC Head of Inspections Mark Voce told Sigma delegates in India that the key to achieving an excellent rating on a pharmacy inspection was risk assessment. Mr Rudkin said that after a consultation, inspection reports will be published. He described publication as a “game changer”. That set me thinking.

Firstly, the GPhC should give pharmacy owners guidance on the risks they are expect to assess, and what kind of risk assessment inspectors will be looking for. Before the game is changed, pharmacy owners are entitled to know the rules.

Secondly, the public rating of a pharmacy is not like the display of a food hygiene certificate outside a restaurant: diners know they are being informed about hygiene, not the quality of the food or service. The present format of GPhC inspection reports would not help the public know what  has been assessed.

Thirdly, the  "satisfactory" rating achieved so far by most pharmacies will not inspire the patients whom the GPhC protects with confidence in the profession because the word "satisfactory" has an underwhelming ring to it. GP and dental practices are inspected by the Care Quality Commission.  The CQC does not rate dental practices at all.  Its reports say whether, in specific areas, standards are being met. In rating GP premises, the CQC follows a set of principles, and rates practices according to 5 key questions. The CQC ratings for GP premises are:

  • Outstanding
  • Good
  • Requires improvement
  • Inadequate

So here are two questions for the GPhC:

  1. If dental practices are not rated, why must pharmacies be rated?
  2. If pharmacies have to be rated, why not have consistency across the healthcare professions and adopt the same ratings the CQC uses for GPs?

The GPhC's statutory functions are to protect, promote and maintain the health, safety and well-being of members of the public by ensuring that pharmacies adhere to its standards. The standards relate to specific areas, such as record keeping, SOPs, staff training, incident reporting and arrangements for keeping and handling medicinal products.  Any report published by the GPhC should, unlike the current format, state in a prominent position exactly what is being rated – namely compliance with specific standards – so that the public is not misled. If reports stray beyond the GPhC’s statutory remit, the inspection regime may be legally flawed and open to challenge in the courts.

The above article was published in Chemist & Druggist in March 2015.