A new resource to support pharmacists and pharmacy technicians when providing services to children and young people with gender incongruence or dysphoria has been published by the regulator.

The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) has set out a range of questions pharmacy professionals should consider when making decisions about the supply of medicines in this context – including around professional behaviour, at-risk patients, and clinical appropriateness.

As a ‘starting point’, the GPhC stressed pharmacists ‘must provide compassionate, inclusive and person-centred care, within the current relevant legal and regulatory context’.

The new resource follows a major review into gender identity services for children and young people – the Cass Review – which called for clear communication on the extent of community pharmacists’ responsibilities when asked to dispense privately prescribed puberty suppressing hormones.

The review recommended the GPhC and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) worked together to ‘define the dispensing responsibilities of pharmacists of private prescriptions and consider other statutory solutions that would prevent inappropriate overseas prescribing'.

And prior to the review, the GPhC had set out ‘advice’ to pharmacy professionals following the publication of NHS England guidance which said puberty suppressing hormones should not be routinely prescribed in the treatment of children and young people who have gender incongruence or gender dysphoria.

The regulator said its latest resource had built on this advice and aims to support professionals in making ‘compassionate, professional and ethical decisions’.

And it emphasised that pharmacy teams providing pharmacy services to children and young people with gender incongruence or dysphoria ‘need to adhere to the standard process of clinical assessment and care provision they have been trained to take as healthcare professionals’.

And it said it was ‘essential’ that all patients had access to ‘appropriate, high-quality and respectful healthcare, free from discrimination or bias’.

Within the resource, the GPhC has set out a list of questions and issues pharmacy professionals should ask themselves when making decisions on medicine supply, based on these areas:

  • Professional behaviour, personal values and beliefs
  • Professional judgement
  • Supporting vulnerable or at-risk patients
  • Consent, confidentiality and effective communication
  • Clinical appropriateness of medicines
  • Partnership working.

For example, the guidance suggests pharmacists ask themselves if they have ensured ‘all interactions are non-judgmental, compassionate, inclusive and free from discrimination or bias’ and that their care is ‘not compromised because of religion, personal values, or beliefs’.

In addition, pharmacy professionals should ask themselves if the prescription is ‘clinically appropriate and legally valid’, and to also consider whether they have enough information to be able to make a safe supply or whether they need to follow up with the prescriber.

Going forwards, the GPhC said: ‘We’re continuing to monitor external developments closely, working collaboratively with key partners across the health and care sector. We will issue more communications and further advice as this work progresses.’

Last month, the pharmacy minister said the DHSC was looking to address ‘any loopholes’ in prescribing practices following a major review into gender identity services for children and young people.