GPhC to ask EU pharmacists to prove English skills before allowing them to work in Britain

Pharmacists and pharmacy assistants from outside the UK will have to prove they can speak the necessary amount of English before they are allowed to practice in Britain, according to new draft guidance from the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC).

The draft guidance follows recent changes to legislation which will give GPhC new powers to check that pharmacists who qualified in the European Economic Area have the necessary knowledge of English. This will enable the regulator to better protect patients by ensuring only those who can speak an effective amount of English can work in Great Britain.

“These important changes will help us provide further assurance to patients and the public that pharmacists and pharmacy technicians can practise safely, by making sure that only those who can communicate effectively in English are able to practise in Great Britain," said Duncan Rudkin, chief executive of the GPhC.

“This consultation is part of our effort to implement the legal requirement as quickly as possible. And I would like to emphasise that employers continue to be responsible for checking the language skills of any pharmacy professional they are planning to employ.”

The GPhC will also have new powers to investigate a registrant’s fitness to practise in cases where a pharmacy professional’s knowledge of English may pose a serious risk to patient safety.

The organisation is also consulting on changes to its rules, including changes to strengthen the existing requirement on registrants to have appropriate indemnity arrangements, and to avoid conflicts of interest arising from common membership of Appeals Committee and Fitness to Practise Committee panels.

Both consultations will run for 12 weeks and will close on 17 December 2015.