The standards that underpin pharmacy practice need to “reflect the shared values” of a profession that is in the midst of rapid change, Duncan Rudkin tells The Pharmacist.

We caught up with the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) chief executive the week before the launch of the news standards consultation to find out exactly what key changes are proposed and why.Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 15.34.04

Q: Why did you choose to rewrite the standards now?

A: There are a number of different aspects to it.

The first is that the existing standards of conduct, ethics and performance have been in place since 2010 and as a matter of good practice it is important to update our core policies from time to time.

The standards are at the heart of everything we do so they need to be up to date.

We are also very aware of the fact that pharmacy practice is changing; it has changed since 2010 and is changing perhaps even more quickly now.

That is another good reason why we are asking pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, trainees and students to be reflective on the profession’s commitment to high standards of professionalism and what the public expect from pharmacy.

Public expectations of things like confidentiality are increasing and we need to make sure these standards are up to date not just for now but as pharmacy changes in many and varied ways.

The key point is that they are a draft for discussion; they are not in force yet.

Q: What are the key themes that pharmacists need to be aware of?

A: What we are proposing now looks a little different but there is a key point of continuity, which is important to highlight.

We recognise that the professionalism of pharmacists and pharmacy technicians doing the right thing in good conscience and seeking to do the best for their patients is the thing that offers the best possible protection for patient safety.

That has always been our view and it informs these draft standards just as it informed the drafting of the current 2010 standards.

Having said that, it is right to see a development with an increasing emphasis on pharmacy within the healthcare profession.

So, just as for doctors and nurses, there is now a growing emphasis on speaking up when there are challenges that need to be addressed and when there are problems where things have gone wrong.

Equally, partnership working is a key theme across the whole of healthcare whether it is pharmacy or nursing or medical practice. Whatever their physical location, people are all working in ways which are dependent on others.

Members of the public have expectations and it is important they can see that pharmacists and pharmacy technicians are accountable as healthcare professionals.

They are expected, as doctors and nurses are, to demonstrate empathy, to treat their patients with compassion and also to protect confidentiality.

Q: Are those changes in recognition of the change that pharmacy is going through or are they to encourage pharmacists to take on more clinically-focused role?

A: That is a really interesting question actually.

It is not up to us as the regulator to design services or to tell pharmacists or pharmacy technicians on the one hand, or commissioners or NHS authorities on the other, what services they should be providing or how they should be organised.

I think our message to members of the profession is whatever those services are that you are involved in, whether you are operating in a very obviously clinical way or you don’t necessarily identify yourself in that way, you are still held to the same standards of professionalism.

We want these standards to reflect the shared values that you as a profession have that you as individuals are willing to commit to and live up to and that’s true whatever kind of service you are working in.

You are accountable for your professional practice, you are accountable for the decisions and judgements which you as an individual make and therefore we hope you will use these standards to guide your judgement and decision making.

Q: Do you have a message to encourage pharmacists to respond to the consultation?

A: Well I would certainly encourage pharmacists and pharmacy technicians to engage with the consultation and respond to it.

I hope that people will use it in groups, in organisations and in work places as a talking point and as a point of reflection for their own practice.

I hope it helps them and their teams and their colleagues think through some of the challenges they are facing and maybe test out some of what we are saying in the test document. Test it out with real life scenarios to help us make sure what we are saying is right and the standards cover all the issues that they need to.

Ultimately, the standards need to be a reflection of what members of the profession are willing to commit to and to be held accountable to, so therefore it is fundamentally important that everybody engages.

Click here to view the draft standards and respond to the GPhC