ethics in pharmacy practice - pharmacy research uk .projects on ethics in pharmacy practice,6 and

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Ethics in pharmacy practice

Dr Zuzana Deans

Research Associate

Centre for Ethics in Medicine

University of Bristol


I would like to thank the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain and the Pharmacy Practice Research Trust for funding and supporting my doctoral work. The success of this research was heavily dependent on those who participated in the questionnaire and focus groups. Over three hundred pharmacists generously gave their time and contributed their stories to the research. I would also like to thank my PhD supervisor Angus Dawson and members of the PhD steering group Alison Blenkinsopp, Christine Bond and Janet Grime, and also Julius Sim. Finally, I am grateful to three anonymous expert reviewers for their helpful comments on an earlier draft of this report.

The research on which this report is based was commissioned and funded by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain and overseen by the Pharmacy Practice Research Trust. The report is based upon research undertaken for a PhD (Deans, 2008). The views expressed in the report are those of the author and not necessarily the commissioning body. Published by the Pharmacy Practice Research Trust 1 Lambeth High Street, London SE1 7JN First Published 2010 Pharmacy Practice Research Trust 2010 Printed in Great Britain by the Pharmacy Practice Research Trust ISBN: 9780956332332 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without prior written permission of the copyright holder. The publisher makes no representation, express or limited, with regard to the accuracy of the information contained in this book and cannot accept any legal responsibility or liability for any errors or omissions that may be made.


1.1 Overview 1.2 Structure of report 1.3 Definitions


2.1 Research background 2.2 Literature review 2.3 Project aims


3.1 Focus groups 3.2 Survey


4.1 Focus group results 4.1.1 Pharmacists understanding of what ethics is 4.1.2 Rules 4.1.3 Key Ethical Concepts 4.1.4 Sub-section summary

4.2 Survey results

4.2.1 Frequency of occurrence of specific ethical problems 4.2.2 How pharmacists deal with specific ethical problems Opinion within sectors Opinion between sectors

4.2.3 How important certain factors are in making ethical decisions 5. DISCUSSION 6. IMPLICATIONS OF FINDINGS 7. CONCLUSIONS 8. REFERENCES

Page 1 of 34

1. SUMMARY OF REPORT 1.1 Overview This report focuses on the empirical findings from research carried out by Zuzana Deans for a doctoral thesis entitled, The ethics of pharmacy practice: an empirical and philosophical study.1 The empirical research provides evidence that ethics is present throughout the daily work of pharmacists and paints a picture of the kinds of ethical problems these are, how frequently they occur, how pharmacists handle them, and what pharmacists understand ethics to be. These data are useful for acknowledging that ethics has a significant presence in pharmacy practice today, and that pharmacists tend to take a commonsense approach to ethics in their work. There is general agreement across community and hospital sectors about which ethically problematic situations occur most often, except in cases which are sector-specific (for example a community pharmacist would not come across a hospital-based situation at work). On the whole there was agreement across the profession about how ethical problems should be handled. Such a consensus implies certain attitudes and ethical values are embedded in the culture of pharmacy practice. The data in this report provide useful indications of possible trends among pharmacists, but the quantitative data should not be regarded as statistically representative of the population of UK pharmacists. Similarly, the qualitative data are useful for gaining insight into pharmacists attitudes and beliefs but are not intended to be representative. The results show that pharmacists currently understand ethics as being a mixture of personal opinion, peer consensus, cultural influence and institutional rules. Pharmacists take a patchwork approach to ethics, relying on a combination of common sense, official guidance, strict rules, professional obligations, and professional autonomy. One of the strongest themes emerging from the data was the prominence of institutional rules, and a concern for the interests of the patient. Pharmacists tend to be dutiful in regard to institutional rules, but are sometimes willing to break them when the interests of the patient are considered to outweigh the possible negative consequences of breaking the law. In fact, the majority of pharmacists across the sectors reported the patients health interests as the most important factor to consider when making ethical decisions. It is perhaps not surprising that ethics is a prominent feature in pharmacy practice given the change in the professional role of pharmacists and the corresponding shift towards being more patient-centred over the past forty years.2 The important questions to follow will be about how ethics should be taught to pharmacists, how well pharmacists are dealing with the ethical problems of their work, and what impact this may have on the services the pharmacy profession delivers. 1.2 Structure of report This report provides a summary and analysis of the empirical findings of the research.

1 Deans, Z. (2008) PhD Thesis The ethics of pharmacy practice: an empirical and

philosophical study Keele University 2 Mesler, Mark A. (1991) Boundary encroachment and task delegation: clinical pharmacists

on the medical team Sociology of Health and Illness 13; 3: 310-330 p313

Page 2 of 34

Section 2 presents the background to the research, which includes discussion of the need and purpose of the research and a brief literature review. Section 3 is a description of the methods used for the research. In Section 4 the key data from the focus groups and survey are presented in turn and discussed together. The implications of these results are considered in Section 5, and conclusions are drawn in Section 6. 1.3 Definitions Community pharmacy: Most community pharmacists work in pharmacies that are independent or part of a franchise of pharmacies. Community pharmacists often run a commercial business alongside their healthcare service. Some community pharmacists are based in healthcare centres and general practice surgeries. Community pharmacists are front line health care professionals and are involved in dispensing medicines and giving health advice about medicines and the treatment of minor ailments to members of the public. Some community pharmacists are Supplementary Prescribers, working alongside Independent Prescribers on a Clinical Management Plan agreed by the patient, the Supplementary Prescriber and the Independent Prescribers, or Independent Prescribers in their own right. Hospital pharmacy: Hospital pharmacists work alongside other healthcare professionals to ensure appropriate, safe and cost-effective use of medicines, mostly within the hospital setting, working in the dispensary and on ward rounds, managing the purchase of medicines, managing patient care, making medicines and providing information. Hospital pharmacists may specialise in an area of clinical expertise. Primary care practice pharmacy: Also known as practice pharmacy. Primary care practice pharmacists are part of a multi-disciplinary health care team. They promote evidence-based prescribing and have an input in decisions concerning the practices drugs budget. Pre-registration pharmacy students: Graduates of the four-year MPharm degree complete a year in training before qualifying as pharmacists and registering with the pharmacy regulator, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain (RPSGB)3. Ethics: Distinctions between ethics and morality are drawn (and debated) in philosophical literature4 and sometimes made in everyday life. The common distinction made is that morality is a personal or societal pursuit of right action, while ethics a systematic pursuit of morality on a larger scale (perhaps in a corporate organisation, or state government), or that ethics is the study of morality or moral systems. Academic ethics involves describing and analysing moral phenomena, forming normative ethical theory and analysing its application. For the purposes of this report, it is taken that questions concerning ethics also concern morality, which is the phenomena of right, wrong, good, bad, virtuous and vicious. 3 At the time this study was undertaken the RPSGB was both the pharmacy regulator and

professional leadership body for pharmacy. 4 Piercey, R. (2001) Not Choosing Between Morality and Ethics. The Philosophical Forum

32; 1: 53-72.

Page 3 of 34

2. BACKGROUND AND PROJECT AIMS 2.1 Research background Following a report by Cribb and Barber in 2000,5 which concluded there was a need for greater value literacy in pharmacy practice, the RPSGB funded two doctoral projects on ethics in pharmacy practice,6 and at least one other doctoral project on the subject was carried out in the UK at the same time.7 There is growing recognition that while pharmacy has retained much of the scientific and technical areas of expertise that partly define it, pharmacy is an increasingly values-based profession. Such a change in professional identity is gradual.


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