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The fitness to practice of students – How does the process work?

Last week we ran a dilemma about a pharmacy student witnessing theft by another pharmacy student on a night out. The dilemma is repeated below in case you missed it.

You are a third year pharmacy student and you are on a night out with friends at University. It has been a great night, and alcohol has been consumed.

It has just gone 1am and the evening is drawing to a close. You go to get your coat and notice one of your pharmacy student friends appearing to search in a pile of coats for theirs.

As you continue to watch you notice that this person is actually going through the pockets of jackets obviously looking for purses and wallets. The person leaves. No-one else has noticed.

As usual the dilemma created plenty of debate and some really well informed responses.  We were however very lucky to be contacted by Dr. Ruth Edwards, a senior lecturer/MPharm course leader from Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen. She kindly took some time to share her experience and also to clarify the process around the fitness to practice of students.

The GPhC cannot hold any data on students as they are not registrants. For the same reason they cannot instigate any investigations into students’ conduct. As a result of this in 2010 the GPhC (or then RPSGB) implemented a requirement that all schools of pharmacy have fitness to practice procedures in place for dealing with student health and misconduct. It is a condition of accreditation that each school has its own procedure and is responsible for the entire process but it must fit within GPhC guidance. This procedure needs to be approved as part of accreditation process.

Click here to see this GPhC guidance.

So because of all this the participants in the Pharmacy in Practice poll were correct not to report the student to the GPhC. 

The dilemma also raises the question of professionalism in the pharmacy student population and this relates to the final point made around professionalism in the dilemma summary. The question is why would they choose to be a pharmacist if unwilling to speak up. Pharmacy students sign up to the GPhC Code of Conduct for pharmacy students. These standards for pharmacy students are based on GPhC standards. Principle 2.4 refers to the need for pharmacy students to be prepared to challenge the judgement of others if there is reason to believe that decisions of another could compromise safety or care. The guidance can be viewed below.

Code of conduct for pharmacy students.

Finally the case raised the question around whether to apply new standards directly to students or continue to have separate code. This debate continues.

Dr. Ruth Edwards is Senior Lecturer and MPharm course leader at the Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen.

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