The PDA respond after the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) issued a joint letter with the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) regarding the alleged actions of some pharmacies during the coronavirus period.
The PDA has previously highlighted how the GPhC identified over 650 major patient safety concerns in routine pharmacy inspections, but had not instigated any Fitness to Practice procedures against a pharmacy owner or superintendent for a breach of its pharmacy premises safety standards. In contrast, the GPhC had until that same time issued over 4,000 sanctions against individual pharmacists.
The regulators’ joint letter explains that each regulator has received reports alleging that a small minority of pharmacies are seeking to benefit from the coronavirus pandemic by charging unjustifiably high prices for essential products. The letter explains the General Pharmaceutical Council’s and the Competition and Markets Authority’s respective roles and expectations as regulators in relation to this important issue and highlights that the CMA has already launched investigations into four retailers, including pharmacies, that it suspects have charged excessive and unfair prices for hand sanitiser products.
Although the PDA welcomes the GPhC ‘s joint work with the CMA, this joint initiative demonstrates what the PDA has been concerned about for some considerable time; that the GPhC does not have adequate powers to enable it to regulate the business behaviours of the pharmacy owners and this is a problem that must be rectified.
The PDA believe that to ensure patient safety, the regulator should achieve a fair and balanced regulation regime that is equally demanding upon both pharmacists and the employers. The fact that it is the employers that control the environment and context in which those pharmacists practice makes the more effective regulation of owners and their business behaviours an important priority. Furthermore, it is the image portrayed by the behaviour of pharmacy businesses that has a significant impact upon the confidence that the public and ultimately the government has in the profession.
This latest GPhC letter, followed a joint letter with the PSNI in March which addressed employers who were asking pharmacists to break safety regulations.
The PDA will continue to press for the reform of pharmacy regulation to ensure that more attention is paid to the regulation of the business behaviours of those pharmacy owners who damage the reputation of the profession.