GPhC to 'look into' automation patient safety concerns
By Neil Trainis
General Pharmaceutical Council chief executive Duncan Rudkin has said the regulator will examine concerns raised by the Pharmacists’ Defence Association about the impact of automation and other technologies on pharmacy practice and take action where it is needed to protect patient safety.
A letter sent by PDA chairman Mark Koziol to Mr Rudkin (pictured) last week urged the regulator to address worries pharmacists have about the implication technologies such as artificial intelligence to make automated clinical checks will have on their roles, legal duties as a responsible pharmacist and ability to meet professional standards.
Mr Koziol’s letter outlined concerns that prescriptions are being passed through to automation without being checked by a pharmacist so prescription volume targets can be achieved, including those for controlled drugs and “other high-risk medicines.”
Mr Koziol also urged the GPhC to look into whether online pharmacy providers are providing clinical safety and supervision when a pharmacist is unable to check a prescription and the procedures pharmacists are made to follow by employers which “will cause increased risk and the potential for patient harm.”
Mr Rudkin told Independent Community Pharmacist the regulator will investigate the PDA’s claims and share any information it gathers with the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency and other regulators.
“We would like to thank the PDA for sharing this information with us. We have replied to the PDA’s letter to confirm we will be looking into the concerns they have raised and will take the appropriate regulatory action in response to protect patient safety,” he said.
“We will also share relevant information with other regulators with a role in this area (such as the MHRA) and will continue to work closely with them on these issues.”
Mr Rudkin said the concerns raised were of “clear interest” to the GPhC not only because of patient safety but the “broader implications for our wider policy work and how we regulate going forwards.”
“Pharmacy is playing an ever-increasing role in providing health and care to patients and the public. At the same time, we are seeing delivery models for pharmacy services changing fast, including the use of technology, automation and artificial intelligence,” he said.
“Our role is to ensure there is safe and effective pharmacy provision across all settings, whether a pharmacy is community based or online and whatever technology it is using. Providing services online with the help of new technologies can bring real benefits to people, but the right safeguards need to be in place to protect patients.”
Mr Rudkin said “regulation should not stand in the way of innovation” but insisted “it needs to be consistent with the legal framework and the outcomes must meet our standards.”
“That's why we've already provided guidance to help make sure the right clinical governance and safeguards are in place to protect patient safety when using online pharmacies, and have taken enforcement action in cases where such pharmacies have not met our standards,” he said.