The GPhC handled 602 concerns between October and December 2017, an increase of 31% compared with the 458 reported in the same period the previous year, according to a report published for its council meeting last month (February 8).
Handling concerns is the first step in a potential fitness-to-practise case, and involves the GPhC deciding whether it will carry out further inquiries into a concern or close the case. The “majority” of cases are closed during the early stages of the fitness-to-practise process, the regulator stressed.
Despite the “significant increase” in the number of concerns received, the number of open fitness-to-practise cases fell by 14 – to 753 – between July-September and October-December, the GPhC highlighted.
“This is because we have continued to work hard to close cases at the appropriate point in the fitness-to-practise process,” it explained.
In an exclusive interview with C+D last month, GPhC chief executive Duncan Rudkin said an analysis of the “general upward trend” in the number of concerns reported had not revealed a “particular issue” driving them.
The cause of the trend “could be” because “there's been a lot of coverage of different sorts of pharmacy issues – pharmacy is becoming more visible to the public”, Mr Rudkin suggested.
Mr Rudkin said the GPhC is “increasingly seeking to analyse” its fitness-to-practise case data, so it can get better at identifying trends and areas of concern.
Reforming fitness-to-practise procedures
In its council papers, the GPhC also called for “further opportunity to look at the purpose of fitness-to-practise” cases.
“Fitness-to-practise can feel like an adversarial process, invariably causing anxiety and fear for those involved,” it said. “Instead of focusing on the needs of patients, professionals are concerned about ‘what the regulator will say or do’.”
“Fitness-to-practise processes should be focused on the most serious types of concerns…not just the mechanisms for dealing with concerns,” it continued.
“We can then use our other regulatory levers, such as revalidation, inspection and registration, to support and promote professionalism with the aim of improving the quality and safety of the care that people receive.”