Is it time for the CQC to regulate pharmacies in England?

by | Feb 26, 2024 | Community Pharmacy

The expansion of clinical services in community pharmacies has brought to light the need for effective regulation to ensure patient safety and quality of care. The current regulatory framework in pharmacy clinical services is in its infancy compared to the robust standards applied in GP Practices by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

The inadvertent consequence of this means that pharmacies can deliver services at a cheaper level than a GP Practice. The only way to ensure that this does not compromise patient safety is to ensure that regulation is applied uniformly across all services. We look at how a collaborative approach to bridge the regulatory gap could ensure both affordability and safety in community pharmacy clinical services.

Recognising the Regulatory Gap:

The existing regulatory gap between the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) and the CQC has inadvertently allowed for different standards in community pharmacy clinical services. While this may make services more affordable, it raises concerns about patient safety and quality of care.

Striking a Balance:

CQC regulate pharmacies

1. Collaborative Standards: A collaborative approach involving the GPhC and the CQC can help establish unified standards for community pharmacy clinical services. By aligning these standards with those of the CQC, we can ensure that affordability does not come at the expense of patient safety.

2. Enhanced Training and Education: Collaborative efforts can focus on improving the training and education provided to community pharmacists. This will equip them with the necessary skills and knowledge to deliver safe and effective clinical services, maintaining high standards of care while keeping services affordable. As with clinical services in primary care, mandatory training courses and annual update training must be seen as essential rather than at the discretion of the employer. 

3. Financial Considerations: Collaborative discussions should address the financial implications of regulation to strike a balance between affordability and safety. Exploring innovative funding models, cost-sharing approaches, and government support can help alleviate the burden on community pharmacies while upholding patient safety.

Promoting Safety and Affordability:

CQC regulation pharmacies

1. Robust Oversight: Collaborative regulation should include regular audits, inspections, and monitoring to ensure compliance with unified standards. This will help identify areas for improvement and address any potential risks to patient safety.

2. Continuous Improvement: Collaboration should foster a culture of continuous improvement, encouraging community pharmacies to share best practices, learn from each other but also learning from the professions and organisations that have been delivering these services historically, and implement quality enhancement initiatives. This will contribute to safer and more effective clinical services.

3. Public Awareness and Engagement: Collaborative efforts should also focus on raising public awareness about the importance of regulated community pharmacy clinical services. Engaging patients and the public in discussions about the value of safety and affordability can help build trust and support for collaborative regulation.

The Importance of a Collaborative Approach:

CQC Regulation pharmacies

A collaborative approach is crucial to bridge the regulatory gap and ensure safe and affordable community pharmacy clinical services. By aligning standards, enhancing training, addressing financial considerations, and promoting continuous improvement, we can strike a balance between affordability and safety in community pharmacy clinical services.

Collaboration between the GPhC, the CQC, community pharmacists, and other stakeholders is essential to achieve this balance. By working together, we can establish unified standards that prioritise patient safety while considering the financial implications for community pharmacies.

Navigating Regulatory Challenges in Pharmacies:

It is important to acknowledge that with clinical services being in their infancy within community pharmacies, so too is the regulation that goes with it. On the face of it, this may lead to services being delivered at a lower cost. However, compromising patient safety is not an acceptable trade-off. Collaborative regulation can help address this issue by ensuring that affordable services are delivered within a framework that upholds the highest standards of safety and quality.

Through robust oversight, continuous improvement initiatives, and public engagement, we can build a regulatory framework that instils confidence in community pharmacy clinical services. This collaborative approach will not only protect patients but also contribute to the long-term sustainability and reputation of community pharmacies.


In conclusion, collaboration is key to bridging the regulatory gap and achieving a balance between affordability and safety in community pharmacy clinical services. By aligning standards, enhancing training, addressing financial considerations, and promoting continuous improvement, we can ensure that patients receive safe and affordable care. Together, regulatory bodies, community pharmacists, healthcare professionals, and patients can work towards a shared goal of delivering high-quality clinical services that prioritise patient well-being.

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