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GPhC to start anonymising fitness-to-practise case papers from October

The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) will start anonymising registrants’ data in case papers, to minimise unconscious bias during its fitness-to-practise (FtP) decision-making process, it has said. 

The anonymisation project with the investigating committee (IC) will start in October, the regulator revealed in council papers published ahead of its meeting today (July 14).

“The project will redact only information relating to ethnicity, including a person’s name, place of birth, religion and university studied at, all of which could inform panellists of the likely ethnicity of the professional,” the GPhC wrote.

The regulator is allocating “significant resources” to this project, of which the IC is supportive, it added.

The investigators consider around 70 cases a year, with individual cases sometimes involving “thousands” of pages of documentation, according to the regulator.

“Further engagement work will take place with the IC around sharing the final redaction criteria and project framework before the project goes live in October. Its impact will be assessed on a monthly basis, with a more comprehensive review after six months,” the GPhC wrote in the papers.

 

Why is the GPhC launching this project?

 

C+D previously reported in 2018 that those from an ethnic minority background are over-represented in FtP concerns, and again in 2020, GPhC data shared with C+D confirmed this was still the case.

The GPhC approved its equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) strategy in October last year, committing to eliminate bias in regulatory decisions, which the GPhC said it would do by adopting measures such as the anonymisation of decision-making processes.

Reporting on the 2021/22 FtP concerns it received, the regulator once again acknowledged that “our data indicates disproportionality in the concerns we received in 2021/22 compared to the profile of the register”.

The regulator received 3,080 over that period. Of these, it holds ethnicity information for 677 registered pharmacists.

It found that:

• Asian or Asian British professionals account for 55.1% of concerns received – this cohort makes up 39.3% of the register

• Black or black British professionals account for 10.5% of concerns received – this cohort makes up 7.3% of the register

• White professionals account for 26.1% of concerns received – this cohort makes up 40.3% of the register.

“We want to understand the underlying issues and contributory factors that result in the disproportionate concerns we receive, and to identify what we can do about this and where we can work with others to make a difference,” the regulator wrote.



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