UK pharmacists' experiences and perceptions of conflict between personal ethical commitments and professional obligations, as set out in professional guidance

Sara Fovargue, Mary Neal

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Abstract

BACKGROUND: In 2017, the General Pharmaceutical Council (UK) issued new Standards for Pharmacy Professionals and supporting guidance, Guidance on Religion, Personal Values and Beliefs, to help pharmacists when their religion, personal values or beliefs might impact on their provision of services. OBJECTIVE: To understand how pharmacists in the UK experience and perceive conflicts between their personal ethical commitments (matters of conscience) and professional obligations in guidance from their regulator. METHODS: Twenty-four registered pharmacists were interviewed using semi-structured interviews. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and analysed using thematic analysis. KEY FINDINGS: Participants were generally aware of the Council's consultations and responded if they had something to say, or it was their role to respond. Age and stage, confidence, and workload impacted on whether participants responded to Council consultations, and, therefore, on the range of views heard. The professional obligation to provide person-centred care (PCC) was central to participants' practice, and personal ethical commitments were important to some. Conflicts between such commitments and professional obligations were rare, and it was generally believed that the former should be accommodated, as far as possible, but not imposed on others. Personal ethical commitments could affect PCC, and some suggested that the Council's Guidance was not clear on pharmacists' responsibilities in this regard. CONCLUSIONS: Clarification on the role of personal ethical commitments in professional practice, particularly in relation to providing PCC, would be useful. Clearer guidance on how pharmacists should manage perceived conflicts between their personal ethical commitments and their professional obligations would also be welcomed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)241-246
Number of pages6
JournalInternational Journal of Pharmacy Practice
Volume30
Issue number3
Early online date25 Apr 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 25 Jun 2022

Keywords

  • pharmacists
  • general pharmaceutical council
  • conscientious objection
  • professional guidance
  • personal ethical commitments
  • professional obligations

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