Previously, the GPhC had seven standards that pharmacy professionals were required to comply with. Now those seven standards have been replaced by nine new requirements. Pharmacy professionals must:
- Provide person-centred care;
- Work in partnership with others;
- Communicate effectively;
- Maintain, develop and use their professional knowledge and skills;
- Use professional judgment;
- Behave in a professional manner;
- Respect and maintain the person’s confidentiality and privacy;
- Speak up when they have concerns or things go wrong;
- Demonstrate leadership
The GPhC has made it clear that pharmacy professionals are expected to meet these new standards at all times, not only during working hours. The regulator justifies this with the argument that their registrants’ attitudes and behaviours outside of work affect the public’s perception of the profession.
The new standards and expectations have been controversial; the PDA (Pharmacists’ Defence Association) challenged the legality of the new standards in a judicial review in the High Court. The new standards exposed pharmacy professionals to undue risk and uncertainty, argued the PDA.
The PDA’s challenge was overturned by the High Court, but it was not a lost cause. The judge’s comments were welcomed by pharmacists, saying that the application of the new standards must be rooted in real life and common sense.
It should also be noted that there have been plenty of examples where an event in pharmacy professional’s private life has lead to a fitness to practise investigation under the previous seven standards. Common examples are when behaviour, such as theft, drink driving or violent offences, which appear to have no connection to a professional’s working life, result in an investigation.
In our experience, registrants historically struggled to understand what those actions had to do with their ability as pharmacists. The answer, that will remain true with these new regulations, is that an assessment of character is part of the cost of being a regulated professional.
The court has always upheld that the reputation of a profession and the public’s confidence in it is more important than any one individual registrant, citing that membership brings costs as well as benefits.
In the comments given with the PDA’s High Court challenge, the judge said that a pharmacist who is impolite over a board game need not lose sleep. A pharmacist who publishes a racist tirade on social media, however, may be investigated by the GPhC, as it would shed more light on their possible professional conduct.
The judge stressed the need for common sense in the application of the new standards. How the GPhC will choose to interpret the new standards in fitness to practise investigations remains to be seen.