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COVID-19: GPhC resumes pharmacy re-inspections for unmet standards

Routine inspections were suspended from March 17 due to COVID-19

Pharmacies that have had a “standards not all met” inspection outcome are now able to be re-inspected by the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC), the regulator has said.

The GPhC stopped all routine inspections on March 17 due to COVID-19 and the “significant challenges” pharmacies faced following its outbreak.

However, it recently started re-inspecting pharmacies that did not meet all of its standards when last inspected six months ago, the regulator has said in a Q&A page on its website.

“Our inspectors will be visiting these pharmacies to check whether they have made the necessary improvements to meet the standards, and the inspector will produce a report for publication,” the GPhC said.

Supportive phase

When it announced that routine inspections would be suspended in March, the GPhC said it would be moving to a “supportive phase”.

In the Q&A on its website – last reviewed on August 3 – the regulator said it will continue the support calls to pharmacies that have been in place throughout the pandemic, to “discuss their contingency planning”.

It will “act quickly” by carrying out “intelligence-led inspections” when information is received that “suggests a risk to patient safety”, it added.

Further updates to routine inspections will be communicated in due course, a GPhC spokesperson told C+D yesterday (August 27).

There are only two potential outcomes that pharmacies can receive after a GPhC inspection: “standards met” or “standards not all met”.

Pharmacies need to meet every standard to receive a “standards met” outcome, the GPhC explains on its website.

However, the GPhC has previously said its standards are “flexible” and that it recognises that pharmacy teams "may need to depart from established procedures" to care for patients at this challenging time.

The regulator started publishing pharmacy inspection reports for the first time last year, launching a dedicated pharmacy inspections website in September.

What do you make of this announcement?

Leon The Apothecary, Student

Standards in community pharmacy have always been kind of lax compared to other healthcare professions. There was already a long backlog for pharmacies to receive inspections, and I would like to know how the GPhC plans to catch up.

Not-So-Lucky Ex-Locum, Superintendent Pharmacist

Must admit, I have worked in some dreadful places (one in Nottingham springs to mind where the toilet floor was literally an inch deep in 'water' coming up from somewhere.) but then some GPs, dentists etc look like tatyards as well. I think on average, pharmacies aren't bad.

Not-So-Lucky Ex-Locum, Superintendent Pharmacist

So for nearly six months pharmacies with standards not met have been operating away merrily, unsupervised? Not good, GPhC, not good.

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