The General Pharmaceutical Council will take over from the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain as regulator of pharmacy in the UK from spring next year, the Department of Health has confirmed.

The move follows recommendations set out in the government’s 2007 White Paper Trust, Assurance and Safety - the regulation of health professionals in the 21st Century, which advised separation of professional leadership from regulation so that the regulator is independent of all interest groups.

The Council, which will be made of up equal numbers of appointed professional and lay people, is tasked with developing new standards to provide pharmacists with “a clearer framework within which to work to ensure that public health, safety and wellbeing continue to be at the centre of pharmacy services”, the DH said.

For example, it plans to amalgamate all registers currently held by the RPSGB to create a single register for all pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and pharmacy premises.

In addition, changes to how ‘practising’ pharmacists are defined will mean that some of those not currently on a register will now need sign up. If roles impact on patient safety – for instance, through signing off patient group directions, releasing batches of products, or setting local and national policy for the use of medicines – then the need for registration with the professional regulator is unambiguous,” the government explained.

According to health minister Mike O’Brien, the creation of the GPhC will “give the public confidence that they are receiving the best quality pharmacy services”, and will “ensure professionals providing pharmacy services put patient safety at the centre of everything they do”.

In addition, he said the Council “will modernise and strengthen the regulation of pharmacy professionals, giving them support in developing and maintaining their skills”.

On the right track
Commenting on the Draft Pharmacy Order, Wendy Harris, Deputy Registrar and Director of Regulation at the RPSGB, said: “There is still a lot of preparatory and detailed work to be achieved if the GPhC is to be ready on day one but we believe it is on the right track”.

“We are working towards a regulator that inspires the confidence of the public and the professions it regulates,” she said, but stressed that “it must also be robust, fair, accountable, cost-effective and efficient”.

The exact birth date for the GPhC will be set once the parliamentary process is completed, and the RPSGB will continue to be the regulatory body until then.