Back in 2010, I came across a recruitment advert for General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) committee members. It caught my attention because it seemed like a good opportunity to get involved with the profession in a way that was very different from my day job in pharmacy. If I’m honest, I was also a little curious about the GPhC itself, which at that time had only just been set up.
I joined the registration appeals committee, which looks at appeals against decisions made by the GPhC on registration and education matters. Then, last year, I joined the GPhC’s fitness-to-practise committee, which hears cases where a registrant’s fitness to practise is in question. Being a committee member is hugely stimulating and engaging and I’m always learning something new. I can honestly say it’s given me a greater appreciation for and pride in my profession.
I’ve worked in the sector for some years, having worked as a community pharmacist for five years after I registered before moving into my current role as a practice pharmacist. This means I am aware that the decisions made by the GPhC often have a huge impact on a pharmacists’ lives. It felt to me that by getting involved myself, I would be able to do my bit in making sure that the decisions made by the GPhC had input from a pharmacy professional.
How the FTP process works
The fitness-to-practise committee sets up a different panel for each case. These always include a chair and a lay member as well as a registered pharmacist or pharmacy technician. The role of the panel is to consider the allegations against a registrant and hear oral evidence. It will then take a decision on whether a registrant’s fitness to practise has been impaired and whether to issue advice or sanctions, such as suspension or striking off.
There’s no such a thing as a typical day when you’re a committee member. No two hearings are ever the same and the cases you deal with can involve very different issues. We will hear the council’s case, the registrant’s evidence and any witness statements first. After that, we’ll listen to the questioning and cross questioning, and ask questions of our own. Next, we go to decide on the facts of the case in private – whether the registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired, and, finally, on any sanction we will impose. The committee chair reads out the determination which explains the reasons for our decision.
That said, serving on the committee also comes with a huge sense of responsibility. I find that I can’t help but put myself in the position of the registrant and think how it would affect me. As the only registrant member on a panel of lay members, it’s down to me to ensure that I get my voice heard so that my colleagues fully understand the pharmacy environment. As a pharmacist, I know all too well about all the years of study and commitment it takes for a pharmacy professional to become registered. My decision could, in the worst case scenario, take all of that away.
I also think that being a committee member has helped me in my day job. It has enhanced my decision-making and reasoning skills, both of which are essential to my role. It’s certainly reinforced my appreciation for the fact that I am seen as a pharmacist – not just in my clinical work, but also in how I conduct myself in a professional and a private setting.
Being a committee member is not just for people who’ve done this type of job before. If you look carefully at the competencies required by the GPhC, many pharmacists will probably realise they already have what’s needed in terms of the necessary skills.
It’s probably worth pointing out that I don’t have a formal legal background, and it did take me a little while to feel comfortable with the legislative framework and the case law. But you build up these skills over time, and the GPhC has been excellent in providing the necessary training and development – not to mention the great support I’ve received from other panel members.
The GPhC is currently recruiting for a number of positions as pharmacist and lay members of its fitness-to-practise and investigating committees. I would encourage anyone looking to expand their experience to put themselves forward.
Pharmacists who are interested in becoming a committee member should get in touch with the GPhC directly by emailing [email protected].