Unannounced premises inspections could distract pharmacy staff from providing good patient care, the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) has warned.

In a meeting held on 26-27 June, the NPA’s board and committees expressed ‘concerns about the idea of routine unannounced inspections, noting the risk of distracting staff from patient care’.

The comments come after the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) announced it is consulting on new approaches to regulating registered pharmacies, which include the publication of inspection reports.

The GPhC wrote in its consultation that while it accepts talking to inspectors could take pharmacy teams away from delivering services to patients, inspectors will leave the pharmacy and come back at another time if they believe the inspection is impacting on patient safety.


Maintaining high-level services


An NPA spokesperson told The Pharmacist today (5 July): ‘It’s true that pharmacies should be meeting all the standards on a daily basis and not just on inspections days.

‘However, giving notice helps the pharmacy team to maintain a high level of customer service on the day while also taking time to speak with the inspector.

‘We know that the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted) – [a Government body that inspects and regulates children and young people's services] gives notice to schools before coming in to make checks, so why can’t we have the same in pharmacies?

‘We believe this request is not unreasonable.’


‘Away from services’


The GPhC's consultation document said: ‘Taking part in an inspection can take members of the pharmacy team away from providing services to patients for short periods.

‘We realise that pharmacy owners and superintendent pharmacists may therefore want advance notice of when an inspection would take place, so they can consider whether they need to have extra staff available to continue to provide services safely and effectively.

‘However, we want to emphasise that if our inspectors think that continuing an inspection may mean that patient safety may be put at risk, they will leave and come back at another time, as they do now.’

NPA’s board chair Nitin Sodha said that the NPA will consider the matter in detail and respond to the consultation, which runs until 9 August.