Changes to legislation governing English language competence could see pharmacists facing tribunal action if they lack the necessary skills.

The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) is now consulting with professionals across pharmacy before it issues its first guidance on English language requirements.

The measures will allow the watchdog to investigate pharmacists and pursue them to a formal hearing if it believes they are lacking in their ability to communicate in English.

In October 2015, Dr Alessandro Teppa was suspended from practising medicine in the UK after failing language tests following a change to the law in 2014.

Elaine McIlroy, employment and immigration partner at Weightmans, said: “The fact that the regulators have taken action against doctors means once these regulations are in place it is likely the pharmacy regulator will take action as well if it comes to light that somebody doesn’t have the required standards.”

The consultation will close on 17 December 2015 with the GPhC due to consider approving guidance in April 2016.

The guidance will be published once the parliamentary process amending the Registration and Fitness to Practise rules has been completed.

McIloy said: “It used to be the case that if somebody was from within the European Economic Area (EEA) that they didn’t test English language whether you were a doctor, a pharmacist or nurse or whatever because European law allows people free movement.

“They didn’t have specific rules about English language but that was changed for the doctors back in 2014.”

Pharmacists are now facing similar developments while the Nursing and Midwifery Council have already completed a consultation.

However, any changes to the law governing pharmacists does not alter an employer’s responsibility to ensure staff have the appropriate skills.

Duncan Rudkin, chief executive of the GPhC, said: “The consultation is part of our effort to implement the legal requirement as quickly as possible.

“And I would like to emphasise that employers continue to be responsible for checking the language skills of any pharmacy professional they are planning to employ.”

McIlroy added: “It all comes from the same principle, which is making sure people have adequate English for safe and effective practice.”