The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) has published updated patient safety standards to reflect legislative, regulatory, and national developments since the standards’ previous iteration in 2016.

The updated standards also seek to include ‘all roles and sectors within pharmacy’, beyond the predominantly community-pharmacy-focused scope of the previous standards, as well as providing consistency across the United Kingdom.

When the original 2016 standards were published, the profession was advocating for the 'decriminalisation' of dispensing errors, the RPS said.

Since then, legal defences to prosecution for dispensing errors were introduced in 2018, and updated in 2022 to include hospitals, care homes, and prisons.

The RPS said that the original version of its standards ‘was mainly community-pharmacy-focused’.

But ‘with an evolving pharmacy landscape and expanding roles, a review of these standards is required to ensure it is fit for purpose’, the RPS said.

The resulting guidance therefore has an ‘expanded’ audience scope and setting.

The new ‘generic’ standards ‘must be contextualised to reflect different areas of practice, levels of expertise and settings’.

They apply to those delivering pharmacy services, pharmacy professionals working in other healthcare settings and anyone working within the pharmacy in all sectors across the UK, the RPS added.

The updated standards also reflect new frameworks and guidance that have been released by NHS England and DHSC since 2016.

While they are not mandatory, the standards ‘are developed and owned by the profession and describe quality pharmacy services or what “good” looks like’, the RPS said.

Specific guidance on what being ‘open and honest’ looks like is included within the standards, as well as the need for workplaces to create and promote ‘a just culture’.

Workplace environments must support  ‘psychological safety and [enable] individuals to feel confident, supported and empowered to speak up and raise patient safety incidents without fear’, the document added.

RPS guidance manager Regina Ahmed said the implementation of the standards ‘will help demonstrate the patient safety culture we wish to see in all pharmacy teams’.

And she highlighted the ‘fruitful’ collaboration between professional leadership bodies and patient safety subject matter experts that contributed to the updated standards.

The standards were developed by the RPS, the Association of Pharmacy Technicians UK (APTUK) and the Pharmacy Forum Northern Ireland (PFNI).

APTUK president Nicola Stockmann said that APTUK was ‘pleased to have prompted the review and subsequently supported with input to the significant update' of the standards.

She added: ‘The updated standards can be used by the entire pharmacy team to assist with professional judgement and management of events, including supporting those impacted. Additionally, it can be used to identify sustainable system improvements, with facilitation of both shared and individual learning.’

Julie Greenfield, PFNI manager, said the update ‘aligns with current best practice, is relevant for all pharmacy team members and importantly ensures consistency UK-wide’.