In 2017, the PSI commenced a review of the Code of Conduct for Pharmacists that had been in place since 2009. The purpose was to ensure that the Code continued to reflect the reality of the legal framework in which pharmacists operate, the evolving role of pharmacists in front line healthcare and the ever changing health service. The PSI held a public consultation and engaged with its registrants and stakeholders. This process culminated in the PSI publishing a revised Code on 25 September 2019.
The revised Code, named Code of Conduct – Professional Principles, Standards and Ethics for Pharmacists (“the Code”) is described as a public declaration of the principles and ethical standards which govern pharmacists in the practice of their profession, and which the public, patients, other healthcare professionals and society expect from pharmacists. It outlines seven principles, as follows:
- Put the Patient First – This principle highlights the importance of ensuring that patient needs are recognised, assessed and responded to and that patient dignity is preserved. This principle puts the patient at the heart of the Code.
- Act Professionally – This principle focuses on the reputation of the profession and requires pharmacists to uphold that reputation by acting with honesty, probity and integrity. This principle highlights the expectations of patients towards their pharmacists and the expectation that pharmacists would act in the best interests of their patients at all times.
- Communicate Effectively – This requires pharmacists to ask the relevant questions, listen carefully and respect confidentiality. It emphasizes the importance of questions and discussion.
- Work with Others – This principle relates to the need for pharmacists to work in conjunction with other healthcare professionals, to ensure the patient receives safe and effective care.
- Show Leadership – This principle discusses how to promote and strengthen a culture of quality and safety through leadership. This principle requires pharmacists to act as role models for the safe supply of medicines.
- Maintain Competence – This principle emphasizes the very important need for pharmacists to undertake continued learning and development activities throughout the course of their practising life. This is to ensure that standards are maintained and that competence and professional performance is continually developed.
- Be Open and Honest – This principal highlights the obligation on pharmacists to raise any concerns they may have about patient safety or other safety issues and to be honest when something goes wrong, with a view to learning from incidents.
All registered pharmacists are required to abide by the 7 principles of the Code. The Code includes direction to pharmacists on how compliance with each of the principles is demonstrated. The Code also assists the public, in that it provides the public with a publicly available outline of the professional responsibilities expected of a pharmacist.
Application of the Code
Under the provisions of the Pharmacy Act, a breach of the Code is professional misconduct. In line with case law, this must be a serious breach.
The Code sets out some actions which pharmacists “must” take and where no deviation from the requirement set out is permitted. It also sets out some actions which pharmacists “should” take, which is described in the Code as meaning a strong recommendation to take a certain action, and where any deviation from the recommendation must be justified.
The revised Code will come into effect from 21 October 2019. Until then, the 2009 Code will remain in place.
Click here for the revised Code.