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‘Serious concerns’ about NI pharmacy regulator’s ‘ability to address issues’


‘Serious concerns’ about NI pharmacy regulator’s ‘ability to address issues’

There are “serious concerns” about the accuracy of the Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland’s reporting, the Professional Standards Authority has said.

In its report on the PSNI’s performance during 2023, the PSA – which oversees the UK’s eight health profession regulators – commented on the Northern Ireland regulator’s “inability to provide timely and accurate information to us” as it engaged with the performance review, calling into question its “ability to address our concerns”.

In addition to failing to meet this ‘general standard’ on information provision, the PSNI failed to meet the standard on maintaining an accurate register. Several issues were raised, including an entry for a pharmacist “that did not show a live interim suspension order” that had been imposed on them, and a voluntary removal application that was not processed. While it welcomed the regulator’s “openness and transparency” in coming forward on these matters, the PSA said it was “concerned that the PSNI did not have robust processes and controls in place”.

In common with the General Pharmaceutical Council, the PSNI has also failed to process fitness to practise cases in a timely manner, the PSA said. Its latest report found that the PSNI’s timeliness in progressing cases “has deteriorated from Q4 2022-23 onwards” and the time from referral to resolution “has increased beyond what we consider acceptable”.

The number of live cases older than three years climbed to eight in the third quarter of 2023-24, said the PSA, which added: “It is our view that in light of its small caseload, the PSNI should be able to manage delays to its cases and explain any delays more effectively.”

The PSA also noted that in light of the excessive amount of time taken to process an individual’s application voluntary removal from the register “we cannot be assured that the PSNI’s voluntary removal process deals with cases as quickly as is consistent with a fair resolution of the case”.

PSNI chief executive Michaela McAleer commented on the report findings: “I welcome this monitoring report from the PSA, which concluded that we met the majority of standards set by them, particularly around guidance, standards, education and training and I acknowledge the PSA’s positive feedback on the improvements we have implemented since their previous report.”

Commenting on the concerns raised by the PSA, she said: “We are confident that having identified the reasons behind the issues that occurred, the systematic modifications we have made to our processes should significantly reduce the likelihood of reoccurrence.

“We will continue to monitor our progress to meet the required standards. We appreciate the PSA’s ongoing support and guidance on how we can demonstrate future adherence to these standards.”

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