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GPhC sees ‘significant rise’ in March fitness to practise complaints

There was a “significant rise” in the number of fitness to practise concerns it received in March, according to the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC).

The GPhC last month saw more than 100 additional concerns on the March average, the regulator said in its latest council papers, published ahead of its virtual meeting on April 23.

It told C+D today (April 22) that it received 380 complaints in March this year, compared to 227 and 244 in 2019 and 2018 respectively.

Speaking during a council discussion held earlier this month (April 9), GPhC director of fitness to practise Carole Auchterlonie said many of the concerns were “about pricing and profiteering,” during the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, it was “unlikely that the rise would follow through into fitness to practise cases”, she said.

This is because some concerns might be passed to another regulator or agency, such as the Competition and Markets Authority, for them to deal with instead, the GPhC clarified to C+D.

“However, sometimes we may carry out an investigation alongside another body or agency,” the regulator added.

“Minimise burden”

The fitness to practice team is  “focussing resources where they [are] most needed”, trying to “minimise the burden on pharmacies”, the GPhC – which suspended all routine inspections last month – said in the papers.

The regulator is allowing registrants “more time to respond to concerns or to prepare for hearings if needed”, it added.

“A protocol for dealing with fitness to practise concerns relating to temporary registrants [has] been developed,” the GPhC said.

The regulator had also scheduled its first principal hearing via video conference. At the time of the council discussions on April 9, this was due to take place the week of April 13.

Last month, the GPhC said it will take COVID-19 into account if it receives concerns related to professionals on its register where the virus is a factor.

Powers to GPhC chair

The regulator decided at a council meeting last month that, from March 12 and “until further notice”, GPhC chair Nigel Clarke will be authorised to make decisions on behalf of the council if virtual meetings cannot be organised.

“In taking any such decisions, the chair will consult with as many members of council as is feasible before making a decision,” the papers said.

However, the GPhC specified that this delegation of powers “does not include [making] rules, which cannot be delegated”.

Have you raised concerns about a colleague last month?

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