This week has seen the official launch of the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC), the new, independent regulator for the pharmacy professions which takes over these responsibilities from the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain.

The creation of the GPhC as an independent regulator, separate from the leadership bodies of the profession and independent of government, brings regulation of the pharmacy professions into line with other regulated health professionals and has received cross-party parliamentary support, said Council officials, speaking at the launch.

“The role Parliament has entrusted us, as an independent regulatory body, is to protect, promote and maintain the health, safety and wellbeing of patients and the public who use pharmaceutical services. Our vision is the provision of proportionate, risk-based, efficient and fair regulation of the pharmacy professions and pharmacy premises,” said Bob Nicholls CBE, who chairs the GPhC Council.

 “As a new body, our first priority is to demonstrate to patients and the public as well as the pharmacy professions that we are delivering effective regulation. This will mean delivering efficient and effective services, being open and transparent, as well as demonstrating that we are genuinely focussed on upholding standards, supporting good practice and only taking action where a registrant’s fitness to practise is in doubt,” he said.

The GPhC has “a real opportunity” to support the development of the pharmacy professions in England, Scotland and Wales, as their roles change with a requirement for enhanced clinical skills, added Duncan Rudkin, the Council’s chief executive and registrar.

“Over recent weeks, we have aimed to provide as much information as possible to pharmacy professionals so that they are prepared for the launch of the GPhC and we will continue to do so as we enter a new era in pharmacy regulation,” he said.

The establishment of the GPhC involves several changes which will directly impact on pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and pharmacy owners/employers; among these are:
- current registrations will expire on December 31, and pharmacy professionals will need to complete their renewal process, including their declaration, and pay the renewal fee by November 30 to ensure that their registration will be renewed and they are able to practice in 2011;
 - continued professional development (CPD) is a legal requirement for all pharmacists and pharmacy technicians;
- the GPhC operates a risk-based system of regulation, setting standards according to the level of risk that activities pose to the health and wellbeing of the public, and to the level of risk posed by pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and pharmacy owners/employers. This approach will improve standards and the quality of care and services for all, rather than simply addressing poor practice, and will mean that regulation is not used as a means of discipline, it says;

- the GPhC will not have a non-practising register. Legislation requires it to register only those who are appropriately qualified and fit to practise, who meet continuing professional development requirements and who intend to practise in Great Britain, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man; and

- the GPhC publishes standards for education and training, conduct, ethics and performance and CPD. Also, for the first time, interim standards for pharmacy owners and superintendent pharmacists have been introduced to protect patients and the public and to promote safe and effective practice of pharmacy at registered pharmacies.