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GPhC could suspend inspections due to coronavirus outbreak

GPhC: "We are keeping the situation relating to coronavirus under active review”

The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) could stop inspections if the coronavirus outbreak worsens, it has told C+D.

While GPhC inspections will continue as planned for the time being, suspending them could be a "potential option" depending on how the virus develops in the future, the regulator told C+D last week (March 6).

GPhC CEO Duncan Rudkin added that the regulator is “keeping the situation relating to coronavirus under active review”.

“Safe services”

The regulator is liaising “with governments, the NHS and other organisations and is preparing appropriately for potential options and scenarios, including in relation to pharmacy inspections”, Mr Rudkin explained.

“Our priority is making sure patients and the public continue to receive safe services from pharmacies and pharmacy professionals. We also have an important responsibility to protect the health, safety and wellbeing of our staff and everyone affected by our work,” he said.

Mr Rudkin added that the GPhC “will provide further updates about any action we decide to take in response to the developing situation if and when needed”.

The GPhC said last week it will take coronavirus into account if it receives concerns related to professionals on its register where the virus is a factor.

Meanwhile, NHS England has asked pharmacies to appoint a coronavirus lead and identify a space in the pharmacy where patients suspected to have the virus can be isolated.

As of today (March 9), 319 people had tested positive for coronavirus in the UK. England’s chief medical officer Chris Witty confirmed this afteroon (March 9) that a fourth patient had died due to the virus.

Do you think the GPhC should temporarily suspend inspections during the coronavirus outbreak?

Chris Locum, Locum pharmacist

Pharmacists and staff expect to work in a safe environment as well as the public, although it does not seem to receive due consideration in some quarters. Of course, some patients have English as a second or third language, so they may not comprehend the corona notice posted in the window.

We should not attempt to isolate patients with suspected symptoms short of fainting or breathing difficulties on the premises. If staff are at home with their children off school, or if ill (and self-isolating) it means pharmacists will have to assess the workplace as compromised to carry out operations.

In other words, a compromised workplace means the work will not get done with the lack of staffing. Pharmacists would have to conclude at some point that they must not sign on as the RP, or sign out until the situation changes. I think the next few weeks will see such a challenging scenario unfold.

Given the current lamentable working conditions and a public whipped into hysteria by the media, I don't anticipate too many coming back for temporary registration and the associated procedures they may need to assimilate.

P M, Community pharmacist

they should all be sent to community and hospital pharmacies to help out...


Benie I, Locum pharmacist

 I'm surprised they wouldn't want to continue persecuting pharmacists and help out the multiples with their disciplinary hearings. This is the perfect opportunity I would have thought. 

M Nazari, Community pharmacist

So the wellbeing of the inspector is more important than the thousands of pharmacists and staff that will be required to continue working during these challenging times with the potential of serious risks of COVID-19 infection within the community pharmacy settings.

Most GP practices have now restricted appointments to telephone only to protect themselves and their staff.  More than worrying about just inspectors, GPhC needs to come up with ways of protecting pharmacists and the pharmacy team.

These difficult times will showcase pharmacists again in continuing to open and provide services to drug addicts to delivering elderly patient’s blister packs. At the same pharmacist should not get their hopes high for getting any recognition for their contribution.

Kevin Western, Community pharmacist

the real question is why would they consider continuing! I assume (dangerous, I know) that all inspectors are Pharmacists, I'd have expected that if the GPHC is concerned with public safety and health they would be getting them to work to cover the inevitable sick employed Pharmacists.

How High?, Community pharmacist

Don't be daft, they'll be working from home because their kids can't go to school.

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