General Pharmaceutical Council Launches Guidance on "Religion, Personal Values and Beliefs in Pharmacy Practice"
In May 2017, the British Pharmaceutical Council published new professional standards, stating that pharmacists would have to “take responsibility for ensuring that person-centred care is not compromised because of personal values and beliefs.” The previous conscience "opt-out" provisions were removed. Previously, a pharmacist who did not wish to issue an abortifacient drug could refer the patient to another colleague. In June 2017, the Council developed new guidance called “In practice: Guidance on religion, personal values and beliefs.” This guidance made clear that in some circumstances, pharmacists were expected to dispense a drug against his or her conscience.
The document goes on to make clear the practical implications of this change, saying: “these proposals will change the expectations placed on pharmacy professional when their religion, personal values or beliefs might…impact on their ability to provide services. They will shift the balance in favour of the needs and rights of the person in their care…under the new proposals, a referral to another service provider might not be the right option, or enough, to ensure that person-centred care is not compromised.
This is a significant change from the present position”. Dr Anthony McCarthy of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children has said: “What is proposed poses a very serious challenge to ‘conscientious objection’ and amounts to a radical undermining of pharmacists’ rights in this morally crucial area. Please do take the time to respond to the consultation and register your strong objection to proposals which may well make it effectively impossible for pro-lifers to practice pharmacy in this country.”