4 Ways Pharmacy Assessments Protect You


As consumers, we rely on all sorts of authorities to protect our health and safety. You wouldn’t fly if you knew the airplane hadn’t been inspected and you wouldn’t go out to dinner at a restaurant if you knew the kitchen didn’t meet health and safety criteria. We can step into planes and restaurants with peace of mind because we know they’ve met strict standards.

That’s true with all sorts of places, including Ontario’s pharmacies. One reason to be confident that your pharmacy is safe is because of the assessments performed by the Ontario College of Pharmacists (“the College”).

The College oversees approximately 17,000 pharmacists and another 5,000 pharmacy technicians. As a regulator, the College only grants the right to practice to pharmacy professionals who’ve met extensive education and training requirements. 

While the College licenses these professionals, it also protects you, as a member of the public, by closely reviewing the pharmacy’s operations. That includes about 4,500 community pharmacies (located in neighbourhoods across Ontario), and more than 230 hospital pharmacies.

College practice advisors visit these pharmacies to assess them and see if they’ve met the criteria to be accredited, which is required to operate in the province.

These assessments protect you in four main ways:

1. Upholding standards. College practice advisors review operations to ensure the pharmacy meets standards and legislation, and uses proper processes and procedures. These cover everything from policies and procedures around safe storage of medication, to how drugs are labelled, to how the pharmacist ensures you are taking your medication properly, to communication between pharmacy professionals and patients.

2. Guiding improvements. In most cases, College practice advisors don’t find serious issues. However, practice advisors can have pharmacies create an action plan to improve in certain areas (with a follow-up), or order a re-assessment if there’s anything that could affect public safety. If there are more serious concerns, the College’s Accreditation Committee can get involved and has the power to revoke the pharmacy’s ability to operate.

3. Checking in regularly. Assessments happen at least once every one to four years for community pharmacies, and at least once every two years for hospital pharmacies. The frequency is higher depending on the activities performed and the potential risk of harm.

4. Setting conditions to open. Beyond their routine assessments, College practice advisors visit and evaluate community pharmacies whenever one opens, changes ownership or changes location. This must happen before opening day. Pharmacies may also require an assessment after a significant renovation.

Pharmacy assessments focus on the operational processes that have the greatest impact on the safety and quality of patient care, and health outcomes.

The criteria used to assess pharmacies are available on the College’s website. So is information about a pharmacy’s assessment, including the date, type, reason and outcome. 

Assessing pharmacies, and licensing the people who work within them, aren’t the only ways the College serves and protects you. The College also:

  • Sets and enforces rules (standards, policies, guidelines, Code of Ethics) that pharmacy professionals must follow.
  • Requires all pharmacy professionals to learn and build upon their skills over time.
  • Coaches pharmacists and pharmacy technicians (on things like decision-making and communicating with patients) via face-to-face individual assessments.
  • Enables you to look up a pharmacy or pharmacy professional near you to make an informed choice about who you would like to provide care to you or your loved ones using the Find a Pharmacy or Pharmacy Professional tool on the College website.
  • Investigates concerns about pharmacy care. See the Complaints section of the College website, call 416-847-8201 (toll-free: 1-800-220-1921) or e-mail [email protected].

Together, the College’s activities help ensure that pharmacy care is delivered at the highest standards, in the best interests of the public.