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GPhC: ‘Unanticipated’ pharmacy closures feed record number of FtP concerns

The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) has received its highest ever number of new fitness-to-practise concerns, mostly about “unanticipated pharmacy closures” and delays in medicine dispensing.

The concerns received by the regulator – which also include lack of stock in pharmacies – “could reflect the significant pressures being faced by community pharmacy”, the GPhC wrote in council papers released this week (November 7).

The regulator received a total of 1,118 new fitness-to-practise concerns between July and September this year, “the highest number of concerns ever received”, it wrote.

Read more: Watchdog ‘not yet assured’ GPhC has fixed fitness-to-practise concerns

This amounts to a 30% increase in concerns compared to the previous quarter, the regulator said.

However, the increase in concerns had not resulted in “a proportionate increase in concerns referred for investigation”, the GPhC noted.


Processing times slow


The regulator’s initial assessment team responded to the influx of concerns by triaging 965 of them, marking the highest number achieved within a quarter.

The team was “not at full capacity [at the time] due to annual leave and sickness absence”, and three of its members had newly joined in the previous quarter.

However, the GPhC acknowledged that the swell in concerns “did have an impact” on the time it took to triage cases, slowing from an average of 8.7 days in the previous quarter to 11.4 days between July and September.

Read more: GPhC must ‘hugely improve’ fitness-to-practise processes, chair says

The Professional Standards Authority (PSA) – which oversees 10 statutory bodies that regulate health and social care professionals in the UK – published its annual performance review of the GPhC in September, deeming that the GPhC failed to meet three standards of the fitness-to-practise category for the fourth year in a row.

The GPhC defended itself in this month’s council papers, stating it had only had six months to react to the PSA recommendations, having received the last report in December 2021.

However, it intends to publish “data about the protected characteristics of professionals who are the subject of fitness decisions” in collaboration with the PSA.

The regulator also set out its draft equality guidance, which the council will decide whether to approve tomorrow (November 10).


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