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Chief pharmacist role should be mandatory for hospitals, RPS says

Having a chief pharmacist within a hospital or other pharmacy setting is a positive indicator of pharmacy governance and should not be optional, according to the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS).

This view was expressed in the RPS response to the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPHC) consultation on proposed draft Standards for Chief Pharmacists.

Launched in January 2024, the consultation aims to gather feedback on four proposed standards detailing the knowledge, conduct and performance required of a chief pharmacist, or equivalent role, such as a director of pharmacy.

In pursuing the publication of these standards, the GPhC aims to support healthcare organisations – such as hospitals, care homes, integrated care boards and others – to deliver safe and effective pharmacy services by outlining the necessary responsibilities and qualifications required by chief pharmacists.

In its response to the consultation, the RPS highlighted that having a chief pharmacist with strong leadership skills in post ‘should be mandatory to ensure transparency for patients, the public and pharmacy staff’.

It stressed that while the four standards are likely to strengthen and maintain pharmacy governance in the interests of patient safety, ‘the standards themselves may or may not provide the framework to support staff to report errors and learn from those errors’.

As such, the RPS called for the wording of the standards to be reinforced to reflect the vital nature of the principles described. ‘As they are written, they do not provide a governance framework but do provide a set of principles from which a framework may be generated,’ it added.

The RPS also highlighted that chief pharmacists ‘must do more than “be aware of” the skills and knowledge necessary to deliver safe and effective services’, as outlined in draft Standard 2, and said that ‘they must demonstrate an up-to-date understanding and good working knowledge of what is necessary’.

What’s more, the need for ‘the standards [to] make clear the importance of creating a culture of belonging’ was also stated, as well as a request for chief pharmacists to make sure ‘that pharmacy teams are in an environment free from bullying and discrimination’ and where ‘diversity must be celebrated’.

The RPS also drew attention to the fact that ‘merely knowing who the Chief Pharmacist is, is not enough’ and said that it is essential for all staff within an organisation to understand what the role is and the roles and responsibilities they cover.

Commenting on the RPS response to the consultation, president Professor Claire Anderson said: ‘Chief pharmacists have a vital role in supporting patient safety and pharmacy governance and should not be seen as an optional extra. Support in error reporting and a culture of safety and inclusivity is also vital for delivering safe and effective pharmacy services.’

The consultation is now in its final week, with feedback being accepted until 16 April 2024. The GPhC is seeking views on whether there are any settings in which the standards could not be applied or met, and any positive or negative impacts of the proposals.

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