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Watchdog recognises GPhC work on FtP process, but says concerns remain

The Professional Standards Authority (PSA) has raised concerns about the GPhC’s fitness to practise (FtP) process, echoing findings from its review last year.

The PSA – which oversees 10 statutory bodies that regulate health and social care professionals in the UK – published its annual performance review of the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) last week (October 30).

While the GPhC met 15 out of 18 standards of good regulation, the PSA review – which covers March 1, 2019 to February 28, 2020 – raised concerns about the pharmacy regulator’s FtP function that it also flagged in its 2018/19 review.

The three standards not met by the regulator are all linked to the FtP process. They relate to “timeliness, customer service, reasoning in investigating committee decisions and the transparency and fairness of a number of fitness to practise processes”, the PSA said.

The watchdog noted that the GPhC had made effort to address the concerns it had identified in its 2018/19 report, making progress with regards to the process involved in investigating committee decisions.

Standards not met

In response to the 2018/19 review, the GPhC “responded very constructively and quickly”, the PSA said, producing an action plan to address the concerns reported by the watchdog.

The PSA said the regulator had improved its investigating committee decisions and that it “no longer” has “significant concerns” about these.

“However, in the period under review, our other concerns remain outstanding because we have not yet seen the impact of the improvement measures put in place,” the PSA said.

 “Due to the timing” of the majority of actions set out by the GPhC in its improvement plan and the period examined in the report, the PSA determined the FtP-related standards 15, 16 and 18 were not met.

In its 2018/19 review, the PSA said the GPhC was closing a “high proportion of cases”, 63%, at the triage stage of the FtP process, which it found was higher than the proportion of cases closed by other regulators at the same stage.

In the review published last week, the PSA said it has “significant queries about the robustness of the GPhC’s triage process” but that it has “not seen evidence that this is leading to cases being closed when they should not be”.

It also welcomed the GPhC’s decision to introduce a closure review forum (CRF), as part of which a team reviews cases that have been recommended for closure.

“We note that there are early indications that the introduction of the CRF has improved decision-making at triage,” the PSA said.

“Constructive feedback”

GPhC CEO Duncan Rudkin said the regulator welcomes the PSA’s “constructive feedback” and is “committed as ever to improving as an organisation, so we can best support the needs of patients, the public and registrants”.

“The action plan established in response to the previous review has resulted in improvements to our processes, as identified by the PSA in its report. We continue to build on these improvements in line with our action plan and regularly evaluate our progress,” he added.

The GPhC last week (October 29) launched a consultation on a revised FtP strategy, which Mr Rudkin said would help the regulator “improve how we manage concerns about pharmacy professionals”. The consultation will run until January 22.

What do you make of the PSA review?

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