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CQC Essentials: Practice-based pharmacist

If your practice employs a pharmacist, what will the CQC expect to see during an inspection?

This article relates to the CQC key question: Is your practice effective? 

The numbers of pharmacists working in general practice, and the services they provide, has significantly increased in recent years. In June 2016, NHS England in collaboration with The Royal Pharmaceutical Society, Health Education England, RCGP and the GPC initiated a three year pilot to test the role of clinical pharmacists working in general practice.

What does a practice based pharmacist do?

Working to the principles of medicines optimisation and the NICE Medicines Optimisation Guidelines, practice based pharmacists can provide the following:

Clinical services

  • Working closely with GPs to resolve day-to-day medicines issues
  • Addressing medicines adherence with patients; reviewing those on complex regimens
  • Managing and prescribing for long-term conditions
  • Triaging and managing common ailments
  • Responding to acute medicine requests
  • Taking part in multidisciplinary case reviews

Prescription management

  • Working with the practice team to deliver repeat prescription reviews
  • Point of contact for medicines-related queries for healthcare professionals and patients
  • Liaison with hospital, community and primary care colleagues to ensure correct medicines are continued following transfer of care

Audit and education

  • Implementing systems for monitoring medicines use
  • Providing leadership of audits and quality improvements programmes involving medicines
  • Contributing to clinical education of other healthcare professionals

Medicines management

  • Working with GPs and practices nurses to agree, and then manage, practice formularies to improve the choice and cost effectiveness of medicines
  • Implementing NICE guidance through audit and feedback, formulary management and educational sessions with the wider primary healthcare team and patients

When the CQC inspects

The CQC considers whether staff, including practice based pharmacists, have the skills, knowledge and experience to deliver effective care and treatment (key line of enquiry E3).

To achieve this, we consider arrangements the practice has for the following:

Clinical supervision

This can be one-to-one, group or peer supervision. Appropriate support for staff varies between practices and an effective process should be developed collaboratively.

Training and continuing professional development (CPD)

Pharmacists are registered with and regulated by the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC). They undertake mandatory CPD and must record:

  • a minimum of nine entries relevant to their practice for each year of registration
  • how their CPD has contributed to the quality or development of their practice.

Pharmacists should be supported by practices to fulfil these requirements.


Pharmacists should have had an appraisal in the last 12 months and be able to describe the impact this has had on their practice. Pharmacists’ appraisals will normally be carried out by a GP or practice manager.

GPhC registration

Pharmacists must be registered with GPhC to practice in the UK. Registration must be checked via the online register before they begin work and regularly throughout their employment. This includes locums and temporary staff. If a pharmacist is an independent prescriber, this will be recorded on the GPhC register.

Medical indemnity

All pharmacists must have adequate medical indemnity as part of GPhC registration requirements. A practice pharmacist is responsible for making sure they have the appropriate cover for their role and scope of practice. Practices must be aware of how the medical indemnity insurance is provided for their practice pharmacist.

Read more: Employing a practice-based pharmacist

  • Professor Nigel Sparrow is senior national GP advisor and responsible officer at the CQC. This article is one of Professor Sparrow's mythbusters on the CQC website.

Further resources

More CQC resources

Picture: iStock

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