16 Travel health 18 Herbal meds 19 Ethics
20 C+D Senate 30 Category M
This series aims to help you make the right decisions when confronted by an ethical dilemma. Every month we present a scenario likely to arise in a
community pharmacy and ask you to comment on the legal and ethical implications of the actions open to you. We will share the best comments along with
expert legal advice. Join the debate at
How to overcome language
barriers in your pharmacy
The dilemma
You are the responsible pharmacist (RP) of an inner
city pharmacy that serves a large ethnic population.
Aware that many of your patients do not speak
English, you have recruited a member of staff who is
fluent in Bengali.
This assistant has proven a very enthusiastic addition
to the team, and has passed her MCA training course.
However, a few occasions have given you cause for
concern over advice she gives to patients. You do not
speak Bengali, and cannot supervise the advice given.
As the RP, what steps should you take to monitor the
quality of information given to patients, and ensure
company SOPs are followed?
Your views
We asked for your views – and it
looks like you were stumped on this
tricky dilemma. We received no
responses from pharmacists to the question.
Instead, we contacted organisations to get
you expert advice on what you should do in
this situation.
“It is the responsibility of the responsible
pharmacist (RP) to ensure that any advice given to
patients is correct and within their scope, meeting
all SOPs in place.
“Although support staff will have met (or are
working towards meeting) the relevant minimum
training requirements to work in a pharmacy,
there is always an opportunity to identify further
development needs.
“While the MCA is undergoing this training, the
RP could suggest that they act as a translator in
conjunction with the pharmacist rather than
providing independent advice themselves.
“The RP should then conduct regular appraisals
Next month’s Ethical Dilemma
A dose dilemma
Share your thoughts on the next dilemma at
with the staff member to monitor their progress
and to reinforce company SOPs.”
Leyla Hannbeck, head of information at the
National Pharmacy Association
The General Pharmaceutical Council declined
to comment
The legal advice
It is the duty of the responsible pharmacist to
secure the safe and effective running of the
pharmacy business, including the sale and supply
of pharmacy medicines. The RP must ensure that
there are procedures in place to secure this. These
procedures, commonly known as SOPs, must be
established, maintained and reviewed by the RP.
It is not clear why cause for concern has arisen
in relation to the advice that the assistant has
provided in this case, nor is it clear what the
company’s SOPs provide in these circumstances.
Poor communication may carry significant
clinical consequences, but it must be something
more than the RP simply not understanding the
language being spoken that raises concerns here.
You must be able to rely on your qualified staff
until some other factors give you cause for
concern – perhaps a confused looking or upset
patient, or a patient returning to the pharmacy
to discuss a problem with their medication or
raise a complaint.
There are often no clear-cut cases in situations
faced by an RP in practice, but the RP is ultimately
responsible and must determine whether, after
following the company’s SOPs, the circumstances
still justify his or her intervention. SOPs are there
to safeguard patient safety but are not failsafe,
and the RP must exercise their professional
judgement in the interests of the patient and be
able to justify the action taken.
If there are genuine causes for concern, then
the issue should be raised and discussed with the
assistant before determining what, if any, further
help or training may be required.
It is also worth noting that the company’s SOPs
may not have specifically dealt with such an
incident and it would therefore be appropriate for
the RP to review the relevant SOP and notify the
relevant person in the position of authority.
Neil Jones is an associate solicitor at
Ansons LLP
CPD Reflect
• Plan • Act • Evaluate
Tips for your CPD entry on ethical decisions
What would you do if faced with
this dilemma?
Consider your current practice, and
the advice offered in this article.
Draw up a plan of what to do if
this dilemma occurs.
EVALUATE Can you justify the decision you
would make in this scenario?
25.06.11 Chemist+Druggist 19