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Council launches new guidance on the provision of services.

The Council of the Pharmaceutical Society NI has approved the publication of new guidance on the Provision of Services for pharmacists in Northern Ireland. Council considered the responses to its 12-week public consultation at its meeting in January 2021 and has moved to launch the new guidance for all pharmacists in Northern Ireland.

The guidance primarily provides help to pharmacists when considering their obligations under Principle 1 of the Code – Always put the patient first – and Standard 1.1.5 – If, for any reason you are unable to provide a professional service, you have a professional responsibility to take reasonable steps to refer the patient or service user to an appropriate alternative provider for the service they require.

The new guidance covers two areas relating to the provision of services:

  • the impact of a pharmacist’s religion and/or beliefs on their willingness to provide a specific service;
  • the medicine, service or medicinal device is not currently in stock or available.

Speaking about the launch of the new guidance, Dr Jim Livingstone, President of the Council of the Pharmaceutical Society NI said:

This is important guidance designed to assist pharmacists to navigate complex situations. The Pharmaceutical Society NI has a responsibility to protect the public. The Code outlines the standards of conduct and ethics we expect from pharmacists to ensure patient safety and care. We also, however, recognise that pharmacists are individuals that hold valid beliefs and values, which may impact on their willingness to provide certain services. The new guidance outlines how pharmacists should protect the rights of patients to access the care and services they need, whilst acknowledging pharmacists’ right to conscience and working in a safe and fair environment. This guidance brings us into line with other regulators of healthcare professionals and it is timely as services continue to change across Northern Ireland”.   

“At the heart of the guidance is an emphasis on sensitive, clear and appropriate communication. This is communication between pharmacists and patients, pharmacists and their employers and between pharmacists. Employers have a particularly important role to play in this regard, ensuring that patients receive safe and timely care, whilst working collaboratively with pharmacists that may have concerns related to matters of conscience.

“The guidance will also be of interest to patients and patient groups, as it outlines what they can expect from their pharmacist”.

“Council has given significant and careful consideration to the responses we received during the 12-week consultation and is grateful to those organisations and individuals that provided very comprehensive feedback on complex issues, which has helped us improve upon the draft guidance.

“All pharmacists and employers should read and consider this guidance. We plan to assess the impact of the guidance once it has had a bedding in period and we would encourage pharmacists and employers to engage with us on this review when it occurs”.


Notes: The section of the draft guidance, which focused on providing services to patients and services users that are violent, threaten violence or are abusive does not form part of this published guidance. This guidance will follow shortly. After careful consideration of the consultation responses Council wants to ensure consistency of approach with the Department of Health and the Health and Social Care Board. We will continue to work with our stakeholders on this important issue. The full reasons are outlined in the consultation report below.

 The Guidance on the Provision of Services can be found here.

The Guidance on the Provision of Services is also available on Code of Ethics and Standards page of our website, which can be accessed here

 The consultation report can be found on the Consultation Outcomes section of our consultations page, which can be accessed here.

09 February 2021