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GPhC claims fee plans 'still among the lowest' despite 7.5% hike

The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) has announced that it is seeking to raise its fees across the board from April 2024, subject to consultation.

The pharmacy regulator today (May 16) said that it is launching a consultation proposing a “7.5% increase in all fees for pharmacies, pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and foundation trainees”.

This rise would include fees for registration and renewal, it added. 

According to the GPhC’s proposal:

  • Pharmacist renewal fees would rise £19 from £257 to £276
  • Pharmacy technician renewal fees would rise £9 from £121 to £130
  • Pharmacy premises renewal fees would rise £27 from £365 to £392

Fees will remain at current levels for this financial year and any changes would be effective from April 2024, giving registrants and applicants “time to prepare for any increase”, it said.

 

Driven by inflation and “operational costs”

 

According to the regulator’s consultation document, the across-the-board 7.5% increase will even be applied to “reprocessing fees” that are charged, for example, if an application is not complete.

But despite the increases, the GPhC said that its “proposed fees would still be among the lowest of similar regulators”.

It claimed that the proposed increase "has mainly been caused by a significant rise in the rate of inflation, which is around 10% a year at the moment”.

Read more: GPhC council members voted to give themselves 20% pay rise in May meeting

“We would be forced to cut back on our regulatory work” without a rise in fees, it said.
 
According to the document, the rise in fees is also a consequence of rising operational costs including utility bills, supplier costs and “cost-of-living pressures for the staff we employ”.
 
It comes after GPhC council members voted to give themselves 20% pay rise in May last year.

 

“Not the right time” for a multi-year approach

 

The regulator said that its budget forecasts predict a budget deficit without a rise in the regulator’s income.

But a few paragraphs later, the regulator explained that it would be departing from the multi-year fee model it announced in 2021 because it “can’t accurately forecast operating costs over a two-to-three-year period”.

Read more: DH rubberstamps plans giving GPhC power to set own practices

The GPhC claimed that “now is not the right time” for the multi-year approach, as it would not be “a proportionate way” to set fees.
 
The regulator introduced a multi-year fees cycle after its September 2021 meeting, replacing the annual adjustments and meaning that fees were frozen for the last two years.
 
This aimed to “help reduce pressure on both pharmacy professionals and pharmacy owners”, it said.

 

GPhC “has to consider increasing fees”

 

“In the last few years, we have been able to avoid raising many of these fees by improving our efficiency and by using our financial reserves to cover any gap between our income and our outgoings,” GPhC chief executive Duncan Rudkin said.

But he added that the regulator “now [has] to consider increasing fees” while it is “continuing to look for ways to make savings”.

He stressed that the GPhC is “proposing a below inflation increase deferred to 2024” and hopes that “by proposing this change well in advance, [it] can help those who need to pay fees plan accordingly”.

Read more: GPhC approves multi-year, flat rate pharmacist and pharmacy technician fees

“We appreciate the cost of living is affecting everyone, including pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, foundation trainees as well as pharmacy business owners”, Mr Rudkin said.
 
But he added that the regulator is “experiencing an increase in operational costs driven by higher rates of inflation, increasing utility bills and supplier costs” like “many organisations”.

 

12-week consultation

 

Affected individuals and organisations have been urged to provide feedback using an online survey or by sending their replies to the consultation questions to [email protected]

The GPhC’s 12-week consultation period runs from today (May 16) until August 8. According to the Pharmacy Order 2010, which established the regulator, the GPhC must consult on any fees increase.

In March 2019, the regulator raised pharmacist renewal fees by 2.8% to £257, pharmacy technician fees by 2.5% to £121, and premises renewal fees by 8.7% to £262. This move caused outrage among the profession, with 70% of professionals signalling opposition to the increase. 

 

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