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02 March 2017

Protecting freedom of conscience for pharmacists

Protecting freedom of conscience for pharmacists

The General Pharmaceutical Council are consulting on the place of religion, personal values and beliefs in pharmacies, and are open to hearing all views. The Alliance has responded to the consultation and is encouraging its members and supporters to do so as well. The consultation can be found here and closes on 7 March.

The Council are proposing changing wording from:

"People receive safe and effective care when pharmacy professionals:

  • Recognise their own values and beliefs but do not impose them on other people
  • Tell relevant health professional, employers or others if their own values or beliefs prevent them from providing care, and refer people to other providers."

To amending the second bullet point  to:

  • "Take responsibility for ensuring that person-centred care is not compromised because of personal values and beliefs." 

The Christian Medical Fellowship has commented that the proposals represent a clear danger to freedom of conscience in that they may require pharmacists to dispense, for example, contraceptives that act post-fertilisation. The change is framed in terms of the right to access, they note in their briefing paper: "While the right of the pharmacist to refer, on the grounds of conscience, would effectively be removed."

The Alliance has commented in its formal response that: "In pursing the proposed changes the GPhC (General Pharmaceutical Council) would be at very real risk in making the jobs of many of our members who work in pharmacy untenable and would represent in some cases a complete barrier to pharmacy for many Christians, those of other faiths and none."

The submission goes on to say that "the Alliance urges the GPhC to re-consider these proposals. Given that the contribution of community pharmacists is being actively promoted by the profession and that members are undertaking roles historically seen as the preserve of doctors, it is submitted that the GPhC should be protecting the freedom of conscience of members in a way commensurate with that shown to doctors by the GMC."

The consultation can be accessed online with the questions for response on pages 23-30. Please note the deadline is 7 March 2017: https://www.pharmacyregulation.org/sites/default/files/consultation_on_religion_personal_values_and_beliefs_december_2016-ii.pdf

The CMF briefing with more information is available at: http://admin.cmf.org.uk/pdf/publicpolicy/CMF_Briefing_GPhC_Standard.pdf