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General Pharmaceutical Council failing to meet four of the Standards of Good Regulation for Fitness to Practise

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The Professional Standards Authority (PSA) for Health and Social Care oversees the ten statutory bodies that regulate health professionals in the United Kingdom and social workers in England. The PSA are an independent body who are accountable to parliament and help to monitor and improve the protection of the public. They use performance reviews to question the regulators they oversee about their work and encourage them to improve the way they register and regulate health and care practitioners.

The PSA have released their performance review of the General Pharmaceutical Council’s (GPhC) performance for 2018/2019, judged against their Standards of Good Regulation. The GPhC regulate 79,675 pharmacy professionals and 14,314 pharmacies. Overall, the GPhC met 20 out of 24 of the Standards of Good Regulation, however, the four standards they failed to meet related to fitness to practise proceedings.

As a result of an initial review conducted by the PSA, they decided to carry out a targeted review of standards 3, 5, 6, 7 and 8 of the Standards of Good Regulation for Fitness to Practise. This included an audit of 63 fitness to practise cases closed by the GPhC between 1st March 2018 and 28th February 2019. As a result of their consideration, the PSA determined that the GPhC had not met the following standards:

  • Standard 5 – The fitness to practise process is transparent, fair, and proportionate and focused on public protection
  • Standard 6 – Fitness to practise cases are dealt with as quickly as possible taking into account the complexity and type of case and the conduct of both sides. Delays do not result in harm or potential harm to patients and service users. Where necessary, the regulator protects the public by means of interim order
  • Standard 7 – All parties to a fitness to practise case are kept updated on the progress of their case and supported to participate effectively in the process
  • Standard 8 – All fitness to practise decisions made at the initial and final stages of the process are well reasoned, consistent, protect the public and maintain confidence in the profession.

A full copy of the review can be found at the PSA’s website here.

For any registrant facing fitness to practise proceedings, it is an understandably stressful time. The stress of the experience can be exacerbated by regulators who fail to meet the required standards with regard to the handling of these proceedings. This is especially the case where registrants experience unnecessary delays in the regulator’s investigations, are not kept up to date, the process is not transparent, fair and proportionate and where decisions are not well reasoned and consistent.

The GPhC’s chief executive, Duncan Rudkin has responded to the PSA’s performance review, stating:

“We are committed to using this feedback from the PSA to reflect, learn and work together so that we take forward the changes and improvements needed.

“We agree with the PSA’s assessment that we need to make improvements in some areas of our fitness to practise processes. We have put in place an action plan to make sure that these improvements are taken forward as a priority and embedded over the longer term. We will regularly review our progress against the action plan and report on this to our council.

“We will also shortly begin a consultation on our fitness to practise strategy, which will provide an opportunity for a fundamental review of our approach to fitness to practise and how it needs to change to make it as proportionate, person-centred and effective as possible. We want to hear from as many individuals and organisations as possible through that consultation.”

Whilst the above actions will be welcome news to both the PSA and registrants facing proceedings, the effectiveness of those plans remain to be seen. The PSA will likely focus on these areas when conducting their next review of the GPhC’s performance, to see whether there have been improvements.

If you have been referred to the GPhC it is vital that you seek specialist legal advice in order to protect your interests and safeguard your practise. For immediate advice from one of our specialist GPhC lawyers call 01616 966 229.