A challenge against the GPhC relating to new Standards for Pharmacy Professionals will not proceed further, a judge has decided.
Mr Justice Singh considered a challenge from two pharmacists from the Pharmacists’ Defence Association at hearing in Birmingham on 23 March. However, the application for permission for a Judicial Review has been refused.
The PDA had questioned of parts of the new standards that require that they need to be met at all times by pharmacists and pharmacy technicians, not only during working hours, and wording around communication, empathy, compassion and respect and dignity and personal boundaries in relation to non-work related matters.
“That the new standards go too far in intruding on private matters. … I do not accept those submissions on behalf of the claimants,” said the judge.
The standards should be “interpreted in a way which is rooted in real life and common sense,” he said, adding: “On the other hand, there may be occasions which occur outside normal working hours and perhaps in a context which is completely unrelated to the professional work of a pharmacist which may be relevant to the safe and effective care which will be provided to patients. For example, if a pharmacy professional engages in a racist tirade on Twitter, that may well shed light on how he or she might provide professional services to a person from an ethnic minority.”
Commenting on the outcome, PDA chairman Mark Koziol said: “We took proceedings because the new Standards lacked clarity and because they extended the scope of the regulator on expected behaviours such as tone of voice, body language courtesy and politeness outside of the workplace. Had the Standards been applied in their widest sense, they would have imposed an unacceptable burden of behaviour upon pharmacists in their private lives. The action was not only necessary to prevent the GPhC from interpreting these Standards in the widest sense, but it was important to prevent employers from seeking to use the Standards inappropriately in employment matters.”
“Although it did not proceed to a full Judicial Review, we are satisfied with the outcome as the determination from the judge has given us the legal clarity to resist any inappropriate regulatory activity from the GPhC. It also provides support to employee pharmacists, as the decision will help in employment disputes related to behaviour.”
A GPhC statement said: “In today’s judgment the Honourable Mr Justice Singh affirms a number of important principles, including that pharmacy professionals should be expected to meet the standards at all times.
“The standards will play an important role in supporting the delivery of safe and effective care, and in upholding public confidence in pharmacy,” said GPhC. “The GPhC will now move forward with the implementation of the standards for pharmacy professionals, due to come into effect in May, and will shortly begin a programme of communications and engagement with pharmacy professionals about the new standards.”
The GPhC Council approved new wording relating to personal values and beliefs in the new standards for pharmacy professionals (Standard 1) at a meeting on 6 April, after discussion of points raised in a recent consultation.
“After considering in detail the feedback received through the consultation, the Council agreed that the revised examples, which were the subject of the consultation on religion, personal values and beliefs, describe appropriately how person-centred care should be delivered. Council also agreed that the wording accurately reflected the relevant legal framework and in particular human rights and equalities legislation,” said a statement.
The new Standards for Pharmacy Professionals are set to be implemented in May 2017.