Giving pharmacists no extra time to prepare for visits from the regulator runs the risk of painting the sector in an unfairly negative light, writes The Pharmacist's editor-in-chief Beth Kennedy
It’s now less than a month to go until the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) will begin to conduct unannounced premises inspections. The new model means that from April, inspectors will be able to turn up to any community pharmacy in the country without warning.
That’s right, folks, in a matter of weeks, an inspector could pop into your pharmacy at any time, regardless of how many patients you have waiting to be served, how understaffed you happen to be and how many other stresses (lots, undoubtedly) that you may be under.
Naturally, this has led to quite the debate in the sector, with the National Pharmacy Association claiming that this new approach could lead to worse patient care during inspections as pharmacists will have to switch their attention to the regulator. Others, on the other hand, have pointed out that unannounced visits will give a more ‘authentic’ picture of the pharmacy’s day-to-day running.
While I can see the benefits of the new approach, I sit firmly in the more critical camp. After all, without the opportunity to prepare – such as hiring locums so contractors don't have to split their time between patients and the inspector – how can an accurate representation of the pharmacy be reached? Surely this rather defeats the entire reason the GPhC wanted to change the inspection model in the first place?
Contractors have told us that they need 'a clearer narrative' as to why these changes are taking place. Other than vague statements about unannounced inspections giving the public more reassurance about a pharmacy's safety, we haven't heard much from the regulator about why the current process is changing - making me wonder whether all these new regulations are actually worth it. As they say, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.
That said, I'm open to having my mind changed. We at The Pharmacist await the first tranche of new-style inspections next month with baited breath.
In the meantime, though, it's important for you contractors to be as prepared as possible. So take a look at our top tips for acing your next inspection. Let us know how you get on.