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Xrayser: What is the point of the £103 GPhC premises fee increase?

Xrayser questions how pharmacists and patients benefit from the GPhC, and asks what the proposed £103 premises fee increase would really pay for

No one likes tax, but at least we can see that it pays for some pretty fundamental needs such as education, welfare, health and security. Recently, a number of my unavoidable costs as a pharmacist have risen and I don’t see what I get in return for them, so this week I’m asking myself the question: “What is the point of the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC)?”

According to its website, the fundamental purpose of the GPhC is “to protect the public and give them assurance they’ll receive safe and effective care when using pharmacy services”. Of course, I agree this is a pretty important thing, but I don’t see why I have to pay for it. It’s bad enough I already have to pay £262 as a pharmacist and £262 for my premises fee, but now I’m told they may need yet another £103 a year to protect the public from me.

To be honest, I never realised I was so dangerous. In one way it’s quite exciting. Perhaps this is how a serial killer feels knowing that the whole police force is after them but just can’t find the body.

Maybe I’ve got away with the perfect crime. Except that all I'm guilty of is the criminal stupidity of giving away professional care and advice to people who weren’t referred by NHS 111, for whom I can claim no Community Pharmacy Consultation Service (CPCS) fee.

That danger is nothing compared to the reports of internet pharmacies that have in the past monetised patient data or sold opiates without the appropriate safeguards. All of these pharmacies were registered with the GPhC, but such registration hasn't always protected the public from such practices.

So, what will these increased premises fees actually pay for? I understand there is a staffing cost for physical inspection. In theory, I estimate allowing a whole day to visit and inspect 11,500 pharmacies once every three years, working five days a week for 46 weeks of the year should cost £850,000 – or about £75 per premises. The remaining £3.3 million, according to the consultation document, will be spent on writing enforcement policies, initial registration inspections, “strategic relationship management” – whatever the hell that means – and infrastructure and running costs.

Since the cost of some writing, maintaining a database and a bit of networking can’t be much, I’m guessing that a large part of my premises fees are paying for the premises located in the prestigious Canary Wharf, London.

Well then, my suggestion for their consultation is that they move out of London to Newcastle-under-Lyme in Staffordshire, where property costs are a fraction that of London. Alternatively, I estimate a move to Birmingham would save 60% of their property costs and have the added advantage of being centrally located in the country. Or better still, why not just operate out of a warehouse on an industrial estate? That might focus their minds on the risk to the public from some of those internet pharmacies.

A long-running C+D contributor, the identity of Xrayser remains a mystery, but his irreverent views are known by all. Tweet him @Xrayser

The GPhC is consulting on proposals to increase pharmacy premises fees by £103. Pharmacy professionals can read the full consultation document and have until March 31 to respond with your own opinion.

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