Fitness to Practice for Pharmacy Students

Pharmacy students across the country and in all years should be familiar with the General Pharmaceutical Council's (GPhC) Code of Conduct for Pharmacy Students.

This document is accompanied by the publication of fitness to practice procedures for pharmacy students and both of these were produced in affiliation with the Pharmacy Schools Council and the BPSA. Students played a key role in the development of these documents, which are based on the pharmacist and pharmacy technician code of ethics.


What is the Code of Conduct for Pharmacy Students?

The Code of Conduct is a set of guidelines on how pharmacy students should behave during the course of their undergraduate studies. The Code is based on the seven principles laid out in Medicines Ethics and Practice for Pharmacists and Pharmacy Technicians however their application has been tailored for your practice as a pharmacy student. It is important to note as it means that you will not have your fitness to practice assessed as if you were a pharmacist, only your role as a healthcare professional student.

Click here to read the GPhC Code of Conduct for Pharmacy Students.


Why does there need to be a Code of Conduct for Pharmacy Students?

The Code is one way of ensuring standards of behaviour for students without the need for student registration with the GPhC which was decided against by the regulator. It is similar to those which already exist every other healthcare student such as medics, nurses, midwives and dentists. It is designed to protect both patients and the public as pharmacy students enter into more clinical environments both as part of and outside the pharmacy degree.

The Code also has some advantages which may not be initially apparent. Up until the development of these documents, it was possible for a student to complete an MPharm and pre-registration year before having their fitness to practice assessed. This meant that if at that late stage you were deemed unfit to register, then students could have paid for and completed their full training only to be told that they cannot register as a pharmacist.

In particular the BPSA can help with the CPD aspect of the code through the BPSA's Professional Development Scheme.


How will the code be implemented?

The Code and Fitness to Practice will be implemented on a local level within pharmacy schools, with a duty to report issues to the Society of any unresolved issues upon graduation.


What are the Fitness to Practice Procedures?

Published at the same time as the Code of Conduct are guidelines on Fitness to Practice for pharmacy students. Where schools already have these procedures in place these will continue but where they do not, then schools have until the academic year 2010/11 in order to get these procedures in place. This means that if someone raises a concern about your fitness to practice as a pharmacy student, there are set procedures which the school will go through.

Click here to read the GPhC Fitness to Practice Procedures for Schools of Pharmacy.

In some ways they are similar to the procedures currently in place for pharmacists. There is an initial investigation period where evidence of misconduct will be determined and if there is found to be a breach of the code, then this will lead to a fitness to practice hearing. Here you will hear the evidence against you and have a chance to explain your actions. You can also have a representative present with you. It will be important that you are open and honest during this process as trying to cover up your actions and then being found out will only reflect badly on your fitness to practice. After this, the case can either be dismissed or conditions can be put on your practice e.g. not allowed to attend clinical placements or your practice could be suspended.


What does this mean to me in practice?

It is important that you carefully read and understand the Code of Conduct. There may be behaviours laid out in there which you have previously carried out and are now deemed unacceptable by the Code. It is also recommended that any current criminal convictions you have should be reported to your school of pharmacy. This means that any issues arising from these can be dealt with as an undergraduate/pre-reg instead of at the point of registration.


What guidance is there on implementing the code?

All schools of pharmacy have been given guidance on interpreting the Code and so your university tutor should be a source of information on anyone wanting more details about the code. The BPSA has also been given guidance so advice can be sought from us by contacting the executive

The GPhC will also be producing an online resource which will be made available to students, answering common questions about the code and working through scenarios which may occur under the fitness to practice procedures laid out by the Society. 

© British Pharmaceutical Students' Association 2013