Revalidation for pharmacy professionals

By Nigel Clarke, Chair, General Pharmaceutical Council

Over the past three years, the General Pharmaceutical Council has done a great deal of work on professionalism – how to ensure that the standards we set support professionalism; and, as important, how to assure patients and the public that registrants are upholding these standards and keeping up with their knowledge and skills, and with new developments in the professions.

This work has coincided with a period of change in the pharmacy sector – changes in the healthcare landscape, the role of pharmacy and the expectations placed on pharmacy professionals; and changes in the core knowledge and skills required to deliver safe, effective, person-centred care.

As a part of this effort, we have engaged with members of the profession, with patients, and with other healthcare professionals to hear their views on professionalism, and, in particular, how they can be assured that pharmacy professionals have up-to-date knowledge and up-to-date understanding of issues affecting healthcare, pharmacy and the way care is delivered.    Based on their feedback, and underpinned by the findings in the pilot programme we undertook last year to test our approach, we have proposed to introduce revalidation for pharmacy professionals.   That proposal is the subject of our recent consultation on revalidation.

.    Our approach aims to do away with exhaustive record keeping and ‘tick-box’ exercises – which many registrants felt were no longer fit for purpose, and the public find hard to equate with professional development – and introduce a more thoughtful approach to ensuring that professional development is not just documented, but embedded in practice.    Our proposal incorporates peer discussion, and reflection on the GPhC’s standards for pharmacy professionals and registrants’ individual practice to provide meaningful reassurance to the public that real learning and improvement are taking place.

Among the key changes we are proposing with revalidation are: reducing the number of required CPD records from nine to four; conducting a peer discussion with a colleague or someone who understands your work; and writing a reflective account detailing how you are meeting one or more of the standards for pharmacy professionals. We are also proposing that, rather than ‘calling’ records periodically for review, the GPhC would require them to be submitted annually; with a small sample (about 2.5 per cent) randomly selected for review.

This approach is designed to underpin the professional approach of pharmacists and pharmacy technicians, and reflects too the way in which other professions are now engaging in revalidation. It is based upon the view that a consistent pursuit of improvement in practice is the best way to ensure ongoing high standards within pharmacy, and with it greater safety for the public and patients. During our initial pilot, this approach has been widely supported by the professionals who took part.

I would encourage all pharmacy professionals to weigh in with their views on our proposal.  Have there been any points or considerations that we’ve missed?  Are there any changes that we need to make?  Are there emphases that we’ve not properly understood?

And while it is likely that the final plan will not come into effect until 2020, pharmacy professionals can and should begin to prepare themselves now for the inevitable changes that will come from this effort.

As a start, I would encourage all registrants to read the new standards for pharmacy professionals, which sit at the heart of the proposals for revalidation.   Understanding the standards and thinking how they can and should be embedded in practice will be an important best practice to embrace in preparation for revalidation when it comes into effect.

Registrants can also begin to talk about their practice with their colleagues and peers.  The idea of a ‘peer discussion’ may feel daunting at first, but many of our pilot volunteers realised they were already having these kinds of conversations, albeit informally, and that the candid insights and advice they received helped to improve their practice.    So, I would urge you to reach out to colleagues and peers, or perhaps tap into the resources available to pharmacy professionals, such as the RPS Faculty, and start these conversations.

Revalidation will be an important step for the pharmacy sector and for the GPhC as its regulator.   Aside from assuring the public that pharmacy professionals are maintaining high standards of practice and improvement, our revalidation proposal represents our commitment to regulating in a way that is flexible, that supports professionalism and that is fit for today’s pharmacy and healthcare environment.  I look forward to sharing some of the feedback we hear from our consultation when I speak at the RPS conference in September.   I hope to see you there.

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