Pharmacists should not be allowed to discriminate against patients on the basis of their religious or personal beliefs, the GPhC has said in its new draft guidelines.

The current standards for pharmacy professionals do not currently give enough guidance on issues around religion and personal beliefs, the GPhC said.

The regulator is consulting on changes to the standards that it hopes will mean patient care is not compromised by pharmacists’ personal views, it announced today (December 13).

The consultation asks about the wording on personal values and beliefs in the new standards and behavior guidelines for pharmacy professionals, due to come into effect in 2017.

The proposed guidelines will focus on the interest of the patient rather than the professional in circumstances where their beliefs might impact on their ability to provide services such as contraception or substance misuse.

The proposed changes were prompted by feedback the regulator received from its consultation on standards for pharmacy professionals, and reflect the relevant legal framework of human rights and equality law, GPhC said.

The current standard states that pharmacists should:

  • Recognise their own values and beliefs but do not impose them on other people
  • Tell relevant health professionals, employers or others if their own values or beliefs prevent them from providing care, and refer people to other providers

It is proposed that the new wording will guide pharmacists to:

  • Recognise their own values and beliefs but do not impose them on other people [unchanged]
  • Take responsibility for ensuring that person-centred care is not compromised because of personal values and beliefs [revised]

The proposed changes aim to “make it clear that pharmacy professionals must not discriminate against a person based on their own – or the person’s – religion, personal values or beliefs, or lack of religion or belief, or knowingly put themselves in a position where a person is unable to receive the care or advice they need,” the GPhC said.

Circumstances should be dealt with on an individual basis but in some cases a referral to another service provider might not be the right option, or enough, to ensure that person-centred care is not compromised, it said.

Duncan Rudkin, chief executive of the GPhC said: “We understand the importance of a pharmacy professional’s religion, personal values or beliefs but we want to make sure people can access the advice, care and services they need from a pharmacy, when they need them.

“We recognise that this represents a significant change and through this consultation we want to hear as many views as possible about our proposals and what impact they could have on patients and the public, pharmacy professionals and employers.”

The 12-week consultation will be open until 7 March 2017.