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RPS updates patient safety professional standards to reflect pharmacy evolution

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) has published updated patient safety professional standards to reflect legislative, regulatory and national developments since the standards’ previous iteration in 2016.

The ‘Patient safety professional standards – responding to patient safety incidents‘ describe clear expectations and outcomes to help pharmacy professionals, regardless of setting, practice or level of expertise, to demonstrate good and effective professional practice, patient safety and systems of care, and provide support to meet regulatory standards.

They provide a framework for reflecting, reporting and recording incidents, sharing learning, taking action and reviewing and evaluating incidents as part of a patient safety culture, and can also be used to inform, develop and implement new local and organisational policies and services.

When the original 2016 standards were published, the profession was advocating for the ‘decriminalisation’ of dispensing errors, the RPS said.

Since then, legal defences to prosecution for dispensing errors were introduced in 2018, and updated in 2022 to include hospitals, care homes and prisons.

The RPS said that the original version of its standards ‘was mainly community-pharmacy-focused’, but ‘with an evolving pharmacy landscape and expanding roles, a review of these standards [was] required to ensure it is fit for purpose’.

The updated standards therefore seek to include ‘all roles and sectors within pharmacy’, as well as providing consistency across the United Kingdom.

The new ‘generic’ standards ‘must be contextualised to reflect different areas of practice, levels of expertise and settings’, the RPS said.

They apply to those delivering pharmacy services, pharmacy professionals working in other healthcare settings and anyone working within the pharmacy in all sectors across the UK, the RPS added.

A patient safety culture

The updated standards also reflect new frameworks and guidance that have been released by NHS England and the DHSC since 2016.

While they are not mandatory, the standards ‘are developed and owned by the profession and describe quality pharmacy services or what “good” looks like’, the RPS said.

Specific guidance on what being ‘open and honest’ looks like is included within the standards, as well as the need for workplaces to create and promote ‘a just culture’.

Workplace environments must support  ‘psychological safety and [enable] individuals to feel confident, supported and empowered to speak up and raise patient safety incidents without fear’, the document added.

RPS guidance manager Regina Ahmed said the implementation of the standards ‘will help demonstrate the patient safety culture we wish to see in all pharmacy teams’.

And she highlighted the ‘fruitful’ collaboration between professional leadership bodies and patient safety subject matter experts that contributed to the updated standards.

Sector collaboration

The standards were developed by the RPS, the Association of Pharmacy Technicians UK (APTUK) and the Pharmacy Forum Northern Ireland (PFNI).

APTUK president Nicola Stockmann said that APTUK was ‘pleased to have prompted the review and subsequently supported with input to the significant update’ of the standards.

She added: ‘The updated standards can be used by the entire pharmacy team to assist with professional judgement and management of events, including supporting those impacted. Additionally, it can be used to identify sustainable system improvements, with facilitation of both shared and individual learning.’

Julie Greenfield, PFNI manager, said the update ‘aligns with current best practice, is relevant for all pharmacy team members and importantly ensures consistency UK-wide’.

To support the publication of the updated patient safety professional standards, the RPS has launched a resources page.

It is also holding a patient safety standards webinar to share what’s new with the standards, who they’re for and how to use them on Thursday, 9 May at 7-8pm, which will also be available as a recording after the event.

In January the RPS published a manifesto outlining its pharmacy priorities ahead of upcoming UK general election, of which patient safety was a key theme.

A version of this article was originally published by our sister publication The Pharmacist.

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