Inspectors from the pharmacy regulator will be given new powers to assess the standards of community pharmacies during unannounced visits, it has been revealed.

In a meeting last Thursday (6 December), the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) agreed to introduce unannounced inspections as part of its new approach in regulating community pharmacy premises. It did not specify when it would commence the new style of inspections.

The changes come after the GPhC ran a three-month consultation in May on the way it inspects and regulates registered pharmacies in England.


'Holding contractors to account'


The regulator also agreed to implement three new types of inspection: routine, intelligence-led and themed inspections.

As a result, there will be two main outcomes for an inspection overall, including ‘standards met’ and ‘standard not all met’.

There will be four possible findings at the principle level, with ‘standards not all met’, ‘standards met’, ‘good practice’ and ‘excellent practice’. According to the GPhC, these changes will help hold pharmacy contractors to account and give the public greater understanding of pharmacy services.

A pharmacy will have to meet all standards to receive an overall ‘standard met’ outcome, the GPhC highlighted.

In addition, members of the public will have access to inspection reports and improvement action if needed, which will be available online and in pharmacies from the first quarter of 2019/20. The rest of the changes will come into force in 2019/20.


Providing ‘greater assurance’


GPhC chief executive Duncan Rudkin said: ‘Over the last five years we have made significant improvements to how we regulate and inspect registered pharmacies.

‘These further changes we are now making will help us to provide greater assurance to the public that pharmacy services are safe and effective, and to drive continuous improvement in the quality of care that people receive when using pharmacy services.’

Further information will be provided at a later stage to help pharmacy staff and the public understand the new approach as well as the publication of reports, the GPhC said.