The Department of Health has set up a Professional Regulation and Leadership Oversight Group to help health ministers create a new pharmacy regulator - the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC).

Commenting on the move, Dawn Primarolo, Minister of State for Public Health, said: “The practice of pharmacy is changing. It is becoming much more clinical in nature and initiatives such as prescribing of medicines by pharmacists are helping pharmacy to play its full part in a reformed National Health Service.”

The PRLOG will help to identify how leadership in the pharmacy profession can best support the GPhC, for example through the establishment of a Royal College for Pharmacy. “The GPhC will regulate pharmacy but will need support from within the pharmacy profession to help determine standards and take professional care forward in a safe manner. A body for pharmacy, similar to the Royal Colleges, might provide such support if the pharmacy profession decide that this is the best way forward,” she explained.

The PRLOG will be chaired by Ken Jarrold CBE and, according to Primarolo, as members do not represent any specific interest or organisation they can work across all interested parties to help achieve “significant changes” within pharmacy. “We want to make use of the tremendous range of skills and experience this group can bring to this important task,” she stressed.

Carter review

The move follows recommendations made in the government-funded Carter review on professional regulation and leadership in pharmacy, which was chaired by Lord Carter of Coles and published in May this year. But the decision to establish a GPhC was first announced in the White Paper Trust, Assurance and Safety - Regulation of Health Professionals in the 21st Century, which was published in February.

Currently, pharmacists and pharmacy premises in the UK are regulated by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, and it has both professional regulation and professional leadership roles, a spokesperson for the DH explained to PharmaTimes UK News. But, “in the context of the changes to health professional regulators announced in the White Paper and the increasingly clinical role of the pharmacy team, the decision was taken to remove the regulatory function from RPSGB, and to establish a new regulator - the GPhC,” he explained.

Call for one voice

The news was welcomed by the All-Party Pharmacy, which last month released its Future of Pharmacy report that concluded pharmacy’s potential in healthcare is not being realised quickly or consistently enough. It called for “a greater clarity of voice at national level, speaking effectively on pharmacy’s behalf,” and “strong and dedicated representation and leadership” at the local level to help meet objectives and foster collaborative working.

"We are delighted to hear Dawn Primarolo acknowledge that the pharmacy profession is evolving, with an increasing focus on delivering clinical services, and we are encouraged that the DH recognises the need for effective leadership to support this," said APPG chair Dr Howard Stoate MP. And vice chair Sandra Gidley MP added: “The appointment of the new Group is a positive step in establishing joined-up leadership - a necessity if the pharmacy profession is to realise its full potential.”