UPDATED: GPhC rubberstamps plans to hike registration fees by 7.5%
The pharmacy regulator has taken the "difficult decision" to increase its fees by 7.5% across the board, it has revealed.
The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) will go ahead with plans to raise its fees for pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and pharmacy premises, to take effect from April 2024, it revealed this afternoon (November 14).
This means that from April 2024:
- the pharmacy technician renewal fee will increase by £9 from £121 to £130
- the pharmacist renewal fee will increase by £19 from £257 to £276
- the pharmacy premises renewal fee will increase by £27 from £365 to £392
It said that its council had taken the "difficult decision" after "careful consideration" at its latest council meeting last week (November 9).
And it stressed that fees for individual registrants “have been frozen since 2019”, with current fees lower than they were in 2011, while fees for premises have not increased since 2021.
The regulator said that it was previously able to freeze fees thanks to “cost savings measures including being more efficient, using financial reserves when necessary and moving to a smaller office that continues to benefit from the VAT exemption offered in Canary Wharf”.
But it added that it has “seen operational costs go up” due to higher rates of inflation, increasing utility bills and supplier costs “like many organisations”.
“The council therefore concluded it had to raise the fees in order to be in a position to continue to carry out regulatory work”, it said.
In May, the GPhC announced that it intended to raise its fees by 7.5% across the board from April 2024, subject to a consultation process.
The regulator claimed at the time that the fee increase was necessitated by inflation and said that even with the hike, its “proposed fees would still be among the lowest of similar regulators”.
The regulator explained at the time 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”. Nevertheless, it was able to predict a budget deficit if its income did not rise.
The GPhC today said that its consultation on the proposed fee increase, which closed on August 8, garnered 7,129 responses - of which “understandably, many disagreed with the proposed increases”.
It added that it will look into the “feasibility” of offering a monthly direct debit payment option in addition to its current quarterly direct debit payment option “in response to feedback on paying fees differently”.
And it said that it is “seeking in the near future to move towards a more regular and incremental approach to fees setting, which will provide more certainly about future fees and enable any fee changes to be introduced more gradually in the future”.
“We know that these are challenging times and that this increase will come as unwelcome news to those we regulate,” GPhC chief executive Duncan Rudkin acknowledged.
But he said that the regulator needs to ensure its fees “cover the cost of regulation going forward” to “be effective in [its] role of protecting the public”.
He stressed that the GPhC is “subject to the same inflationary pressures and financial challenges” as those it regulates and is “delaying” a fee increase until April 2024 after freezing its fees through cost-saving measures in previous years.
The regulator is “working in a changing environment” with pharmacy “evolving at pace” and this will “lead to significant changes in the scope and complexity” of its work alongside the “major projects” it is already undertaking, Mr Rudkin said.
“In taking this difficult decision, we are ensuring we can carry out our statutory duties and continue to ensure patients and the public receive safe and effective pharmacy care and have trust in pharmacy, now and in the future,” he added.
Pharmacists reacted with dismay to the GPhC's proposals in May. A snapshot poll conducted by C+D shortly after the announcement found that 92% of 566 respondents felt that the GPhC’s fee increase was not justified.
In August, the Pharmacists' Defence Association (PDA) published its response to the fee hike consultation, which argued that the regulator’s reasoning behind the decision was “wholly inadequate”.
The trade union’s numerous concerns included the high costs associated with the regulator’s Canary Wharf offices, that the GPhC appeared to be on £9.3 million “serious and significant spending spree” that it suspected was for fittings at its new headquarters and that it had “failed to disclose” how it calculates the cost to regulate each registrant group.
The proposal to increase the regulator’s levy came after the GPhC council voted in May 2022 that its members should receive £15,000 per annum in 2022/23 for their duties, which amounted to a 20% pay rise.