The regulator received 2,985 concerns in 2019-20, a 28% increase on the 2,329 concerns received in 2017-18 and 12% up on the 2,674 concerns in 2018-19, the GPhC said in its annual fitness to practise report published last week (July 17).
“It is difficult to give reasons for the increase because there are many potential causes and there were no notable increases in any individual type of concern received,” the regulator said.
The GPhC registered a “significant increase in concerns” during the last quarter of 2019-20, “at least in part due to COVID-19 related issues”.
In April, the regulator shared that the number of concerns for March was up 56% compared to 2019 and 2018 – with 380 complaints in March this year, and 244 for the same month the previous two years.
More concerns from employers
The GPhC report showed that 55% (1,627) concerns received in 2019-20 were raised by members of the public.
However, concerns raised by employers were on the rise, with 219 received in 2019-20 versus 167 in the previous financial year – an increase of 31%.
“All other sources have decreased, with the most notable decrease in concerns [being] from other healthcare professionals,” the GPhC said.
Concerns closed earlier
The GPhC closed 1,405 (47%) of concerns at “triage” stage – the point at which it considers whether the information is for the organisation to handle and if it has the power to carry out an investigation.
Of these concerns, 1,003 (71%) were closed “with no further action”, 321 (23%) with “signposting to another concerns-handling body” and 81 (6%) “with guidance”.
While the number of concerns closed with no further action has almost doubled since 2018-19, when it was 567, “most of these additional concerns are not about patient safety and don’t raise regulatory issues that we are able to deal with”, the GPhC said.
Fewer concerns (76) were referred to the investigating or fitness to practise committee stage in 2019/20, down 39% from 125 in 2018-19. The GPhC also registered a drop in the number of hearings from 63 in 2018-19 to 40 in 2019-20 – a 37% reduction.