Advice in relation to access to pharmacies and scheduled medicines

With the Christmas and New Year break approaching, many of us are looking forward to some time off. However, pharmacies will continue to operate over this time, and thus you may have employed a locum pharmacist to cover for your holiday.

The Pharmacy Council would like to remind you of your obligations regarding access and supplying keys, access codes and safe access to locums.

The Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (NSW) Schedule 5F, clause 11(1) state that a pharmacist is to be in charge of every pharmacy business in NSW, where a pharmacy business carried on in approved premises must be in the charge of a pharmacist who must personally supervise the carrying on of the business.

In real terms, this means that whenever a pharmacy is open and operating as a business, regardless of whether dispensing is undertaken, the pharmacy must have a registered pharmacist on the premises at all times.

Whilst we understand that sometimes a locum may not be able to gain keys to a pharmacy prior to arrival, the pharmacy should never be opened by non-pharmacist staff, as this is a contravention the national law.

Also, within the NSW Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Regulation 2008, there are requirements around access to scheduled substances. Schedule 4 substances must be stored out of access to the public, and S8 medications must be stored in a safe, which must be kept securely locked when not in immediate use.

Any key or the device to unlock the safe must be kept on the person of a pharmacist whenever it is on the same premises as the safe, and is removed from the premises whenever there is no pharmacist at those premises. Alternately it may be kept in a separately locked safe to which only a pharmacist has access, and any code or combination that is required to unlock the safe is not to be divulged to any unauthorised person.

In practice, this means that any S8 key must not be given to a pharmacy assistant or technician, and that a provision must be made to have such a key stored in a pin code safe or lockbox, to allow for the pharmacist to access, without access being granted to any non-pharmacist employees.

Take home points for pharmacy access

  • Keys to the pharmacy should be given directly to the locum pharmacist.
  • If you are unable to do so, use a lock box, or provide the alarm pin codes only to pharmacist staff to prevent access by non-pharmacist staff without a pharmacist present.
  • Keys or access codes to the drug safe should not be given to non-pharmacist employees or other persons, including spouses of pharmacist.
  • Do not divulge the pharmacy alarm code to non-pharmacist staff.
  • Ensure that pharmacist staff are the first to arrive at the store, wherever possible.
  • Ensure all staff know to wait until the pharmacist has arrived before entering the pharmacy.

A contravention of the National Law or NSW Regulation may form grounds for a complaint of unsatisfactory professional conduct, and in the case of a statutory offence, the proprietor(s) and/or pharmacist in charge may be prosecuted in a Court of summary jurisdiction.