What to do during GPHC Inspection as a Locum

November 24th, 2015 Business | General Pharmacy | Locum Pharmacy No Comments

GPhC Inspection

We asked one of our locums, Naeema Modi, to give her experience as a locum undergoing a GPHC inspection for the benefit for those of you who are wondering, is today the day?

This WILL be experienced by you all at least once in your working life. I have had the pleasure of undergoing a GPHC inspection twice so far!

However, this has enabled me to share my experience(s) with you so that you are adequately prepared for this situation; should it arise. If an inspector turns up, first thought may be flight or flight response. You may even start to run. It’s fine. It’s understandable. But once your heart rate reaches back to a normal pace, and you realise you are the pharmacist in charge, you can put your coat back and greet the inspector. Now relax and take a deep breath. If you are having a bad day, this article may help.

Firstly I think it’s important to understand that there is no need to panic. An inspector is only coming to assess the place you are working to ensure and safeguard patient health and safety. Remember this point at all times. Then you will not see them as a threat. Or someone to run away from.

Act in a professional manner

locum tips

Present yourself well

Working in a professional capacity should be no different to your daily routine anyway.

However, for the individuals out there who like a bit of “office banter”, I strongly suggest you hold fire on this until the inspector leaves.

Can I buy you a drink?

No, this does not mean chatting the inspector up or offering them an alcoholic beverage! You don’t need to go over the top with the drinks. No need to grind the coffee beans in the pestle and mortar (Although you may have secretly been waiting for a chance to use it).

However, it would be nice to show them a warm welcome by offering them a drink and allocating a working space to conduct their audits.

Familiarise yourself with the protocols

When carrying out locum work you should ensure you know where the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) are kept in the pharmacy(s).

All SOP’s must be signed (as long as the tasks are within your competency to carry out). If you do not sign a particular SOP; you should not perform the task outlined within this.

Always ask if there is a locum SOP folder, comprising of the basic SOPs which will enable you to work in the pharmacy during your locum shift.Inspectors may read these protocols and test your knowledge around them.

As a locum pharmacist, it is always advisable to make the inspector aware that you are the locum. Any gaps in operational procedures you are not aware of will ultimately be asked of the regular staff.

For more information about the importance of SOP’s when working as a locum pharmacist, please click this link: Locum Pharmacist Tips

You hold the key to success

The Controlled Drug cabinet keys should be on you at all times or otherwise under your direct supervision. You may often be asked about their safekeeping and inspectors would like to see they are in the possession of the responsible pharmacist.The Controlled drug (CD) register is also quite crucial, as the inspector may check stock levels and perform balance checks against the products. Make sure all Controlled drugs that come in or go out are entered. At this point, it is also advisable to perform balance checks as well. If there are any discrepancies show that you are prepared to investigate them. If you are still unsure then contact the pharmacy manager.


The new General Pharmaceutical Council inspector guidelines suggest that staff will be questioned, so you will probably not be “grilled” so to speak. However, as the responsible pharmacist, it will to some degree, fall under your responsibility to make sure the staff that work alongside you hold the correct accreditations and training in place to perform their roles. Dispensers should have completed, or be in the process of completing, their dispensing course(s). Counter assistants should be trained on the counter, and where possible their certificates displayed.

All members of the team, including yourself, should be following the “WWHAM” questions when serving patients with Over the Counter (OTC) medicines and offering advice for minor ailments.

W – Who is the patient

W – What are the symptoms

H – How long have the symptoms been present

A – Action taken

M – Medication being taken

Coupled with this, inspectors would like to see you are offering the correct products and signposting where need be. Patient safety is paramount and is their primary concern when performing audits around procedures and premises’.

Display your presence

You must make sure you are displaying your responsible pharmacist notice and have signed into the register. Remember to sign out for lunch and break periods as well.

Focus on the task at hand

Having an inspector in the pharmacy does not mean you need to smother them with lots of questions and guidance around the premises. Ultimately they will work in the background and bring to your attention anything they would like to query.Maintain a calm working environment for the staff as well. If you are relaxed, they will essentially follow your lead.

“Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?..”

So this brings me to the next point, do not lie! Answer truthfully! If you are unsure of how something is carried out or where things are kept, just be honest.Your behaviour should reflect that of pharmacy standards of code and ethics. Make sure you are providing a safe working environment, and regardless of any conflicts always acting professionally. If for instance there is an urgent matter that needs addressing it may be wise to contact the superintendent pharmacist.

Take it on the chin

Remember, an inspector will suggest improvements, he/she will report with positive or negative criticisms. Take any constructive criticism as he/she is trying to better your working environment and that of the pharmacy. Either way, it is a good idea to discuss these with the pharmacy owners and manager. Together you can implement next steps and action plans to action this feedback.

Are you capable and accredited?

If providing services you must make sure you are accredited and hold the correct certificates. Some locums carry these around when they are working to present to employers or inspectors who may ask for it.

Certain services require you to sign and adhere to the Patient Group Directives (PGD’s). Make sure you are aware of these and are following the service requirements accordingly. Flu Vaccination service is a great example of this.

Clean up that mess!

How many times have we told our kids to clean up the mess, or if you can remember far enough, being told ourselves?

Well, this isn’t quite the same. Inspectors will check cleaning logs and rotas for the pharmacy. He/she will check if they have been signed and actions performed every so often.In the same way, we must try to keep a clean dispensary. Now not all working environments have ample room to work but we need to make the most of the space we have.

Anything which is viewed as a health and safety hazard may be picked up by the inspector so try to keep this working environment clear of any clutter.

Lock, STOCK and two Smoking Barrels

I am not saying to put this movie on for the inspector. Inspectors may ask to see stock integrity audits and rotas. Where possible encourage pharmacy owners and managers to have these present in the pharmacy. They should show the frequency of stock rotations (minimum every 3 months) and be signed by members of the teams carrying this out. Stock integrity audits should be categorised according to month and display any out of date products, when they were removed and their trade costs.

Comfort Zone

Work with your professional judgement and capacity. If things are not up to scratch at the particular setting then highlight this to the manager, but do not fall into bad or illegal working practices.

The Verdict

That’s pretty much all the information I can give you.

I still remember working as a pre-registration trainee and the inspector turned up. I was asked numerous questions, some of which I couldn’t answer. This first encounter wasn’t the nicest to say the least!

However, my second encounter was whilst working as a locum. It went much better, as I was confident in what I had to say and do. I learnt from my first experience by reading the GPhC guidelines and what inspectors look for; a resource worth checking out: GPHC Guidelines

Asking fellow colleagues about a recent inspection they may have had, is another great tool as it will help to prepare you for any future visits that might happen on your watch.

Remember if it does happen to any of you; think of it as a learning experience. It will not only help with your continuing professional development but improve your confidence as well.

After all, a pharmacist’s job never ends, there are so many things we can do to improve our working practice and development. Inspectors are there to safeguard patient health and safety; to ensure patients have full confidence in their pharmacists.

So why worry?

If you want more information, why not go to an actual event where the head inspector talks about the inspection. This is an excellent chance to get first-hand information as well as to meet other pharmacists and network. The event is free but registration is required as spaces may be limited. And yes you can also add it to your CPD.

Image Credit: Pixbay

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