The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) has issued over 60 enforcement notices against online pharmacies to restrict their ability to supply medicines and provide services over concerns about patient safety, its director of Insight, Intelligence & Inspection has said.

Speaking to delegates at the Sigma Conference 2023 via video link, Claire Bryce-Smith said that around 30% of the GPhC’s fitness to practice caseload involved online pharmacies, with many of these cases involving individuals operating outside their scope of practice.

Enforcement actions against 64 online pharmacies have taken place since April 2019, the GPhC confirmed to The Pharmacist.

Ms Bryce-Smith said that an increasing number of pharmacists were working across multiple settings, and that sometimes people working in an online pharmacy ‘seem to forget all the stuff that happens in community pharmacy systems’.

She added that in addition to a lack of procedures in place within some of these online pharmacy settings, the GPhC had also found that people were not speaking up about the lack of clinical governance in place.

Review of registrations planned

Ms Bryce-Smith also said that the GPhC was planning to review what its registration covered, due to the changing nature of community pharmacy.

In order to have a better idea of what it registers and how it registers it, the GPhC would undertake a review of its registration of premises in 2023/34 and of pharmacists in 2024/25.

She said: ‘The world of pharmacy is more than just supplying Ps and POMs’, she said, adding that the GPhC was ‘committed to reviewing what we register, why we register it, and the basis for registration’.

Ms Bryce-Smith also said that the GPhC was working with commissioners to embed clinical governance within clinical services, including within vaccination services.