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Removal ‘likely’ – GPhC cracks down on racism with new FtP proposals

Racist acts will “likely” result in a pharmacy professional’s removal or suspension from the register if proven at a fitness-to-practise hearing, the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) has proposed.

The regulator believes it is “appropriate” to slap pharmacy professionals with sanctions from “the upper end of the scale” if racism or other forms of discrimination are proven, it said in updated guidance published yesterday (November 29).

This could include suspension or removal from the register.

Read more: What steps have community pharmacy bodies taken to tackle racism?

This should be the case even if the person being investigated has received “no criminal conviction” for their actions, the GPhC said.

It comes as the regulator prepares to consult on two proposed amendments to the guidance it issues to its fitness-to-practise committees.

The GPhC believes its revised guidance “makes it clear that racism and other forms of discrimination are serious and are likely to result in removal or suspension from the register”, it wrote.

The consultation will run for eight weeks, closing on January 31, 2023.


How to respond to discrimination


The GPhC’s first proposed amendment to its hearings and sanctions guidance aims to support the committee’s decision making in hearings “where discrimination is a factor”.

The amendment outlines instances of what it considers discriminatory behaviour, such as “abusive verbal comments, including hate speech, or offensive writing towards someone” because of certain protected characteristics they hold.

Read more: GPhC to start anonymising fitness-to-practise case papers from October

Other examples of discriminatory behaviour include “refusing a patient treatment based on the patient’s protected characteristics”, as well as treating a patient or colleague less favourably because of those.

Protected characteristics can include someone’s race, sex and gender, religion, or sexuality.

The revised guidance advises committee members to “balance…any aggravating and mitigating factors” when coming to a decision about a registrant displaying discriminatory behaviour.

“Because of the serious nature of these concerns and the impact on public trust and confidence in the profession, the committee should consider outcomes at the upper end of the scale,” it emphasised.

GPhC chief executive Duncan Rudkin said the regulator wants to update the guidance “to reflect how seriously we take racism and other forms of discrimination”.

He added: “This new guidance will help committee members to make decisions on what action should be taken in fitness-to-practise cases involving discrimination, or where cultural sensitivities need to be taken into account.

“We would encourage people to let us know their views on this guidance to help make sure the right outcome is reached in each case.”


Cultural factors


The GPhC recommended that its fitness-to-practice committee be sensitive to cultural differences when considering aggravating or mitigating factors in fitness-to-practise cases.

Apology, insight, or expression of regret can be communicated differently according to a registrant’s culture, the regulator pointed out.

“This is particularly the case for individuals who are communicating in a second language and may use elements of their first language to construct their sentences or statements,” the regulator wrote.

Read more: PDA slams ‘incomprehensible’ draft GPhC guidance on EDI risk assessments

Earlier this month, the GPhC published responses to its consultation on its draft equality guidance, which saw many questioning whether it would benefit pharmacy staff and patients, or if it is just another “tick box exercise”.

It also revealed that it had received its highest ever number of new fitness-to-practise concerns between July and September this year, mostly about “unanticipated pharmacy closures” and delays in medicine dispensing.

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