The regulator decided to delay the introduction of the £103 increase until April 2021, after considering the pressures faced by the sector during the COVID-19 pandemic, it said in a document published during its council meeting yesterday (July 23).
The GPhC had initially proposed implementing the fee increase from October this year. Speaking yesterday, GPhC CEO Duncan Rudkin said the change would now come into effect next April “to provide time for pharmacy owners to prepare”.
The regulator has calculated that, based on 2018/19 figures, it now costs £365 a year to regulate each pharmacy.
Presenting the proposal to the council, GPhC associate director of finance and procurement Jonathan Bennetts said the council had introduced “intermittent incremental increases in premises fees” over the last decade, but that those had not “kept up with the cost of regulation”.
“We have subsidised the cost of that regulation over the last few years. It was a strategic decision to do that […], recognising some of the challenges at the time that the pharmacy sector was having, but that is clearly not a sustainable approach for us to take going forward,” he said In the document.
The GPhC also emphasised the risk to patients and the public if it does not have “sufficient resources” to regulate pharmacies “appropriately”.
Burden on pharmacy owners
Pharmacy professionals and organisations were invited to share their views on the proposed changes to the premises fees between January and March 31.
Two thirds (67%) of the 1,716 respondents to the GPhC consultation disagreed with the proposed increase, the GPhC said in yesterday’s papers.
Many respondents invited the GPhC to consider “the context in which the proposed increase would take place, citing ongoing issues such as cuts to funding and increasing workplace pressures”, the regulator said in a report also published yesterday on the consultation on the premises fee increase.
A “large proportion” of those who disagreed with the proposal said an increase in premises fees would place a financial burden on pharmacy owners.
Some respondents also suggested a higher pharmacy premises fees could trigger closures of small pharmacies that "would not have the means to manage an increase in their fees, compared to owners of multiple pharmacies with larger incomes”.
Commenting on the rise, a National Pharmacy Association spokesperson told C+D yesterday that the higher fees are “an extra cost burden for pharmacies that are already struggling financially”.