The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) has defended its decision to raise renewal fees for the first time in three years in the face of opposition from the sector.
Sixty per cent of 1,072 respondents to a GPhC consultation earlier this year had “disagreed or strongly disagreed” with the regulator’s plans to raise pharmacists’ registration fees from October by £10 to £250, council meeting notes revealed last week (June 11). Sixty-five per cent were opposed to raising technicians’ fees by the same amount to £118 and 34 per cent were against the £20 hike in premises fees to £241.
But GPhC chief executive Duncan Rudkin stressed the consultation “couldn’t be a vote” on fee levels. “It wouldn’t be appropriate for [the consultation] to be a referendum because we have to fund an appropriate level of regulation,” he told C+D in an exclusive interview on Monday (June 15).
It was right the regulator was “challenged” on its financial decisions, said Mr Rudkin. “We need consultations on fees to challenge us, to point out where we haven’t explained properly where we might have got thinking wrong - we are always open to that,” he said.
The GPhC had taken the feedback “in the spirit it was intended” and felt it had set the "right" fees, Mr Rudkin stressed.
Mr Rudkin acknowledged that “nobody wants to pay more”, but he highlighted that the fees would still be less than they were in 2011, when pharmacists were charged £262 and pharmacy technicians £142. “Some elements of regulation are costing more – that does need to be funded,” he argued, pointing out that the GPhC was dealing with a "much bigger" fitness-to-practise caseload than in previous years. The number of cases dealt with by the GPhC in April 2015 was seven per cent higher than in April 2014.
Responding to the C+D story, superintendent John Robinson said he “understood” the need to increase premises fees, but was “not so sure” about registration fees.
A community pharmacist posting on the C+D website as Super Pharmacist argued that the consultation had been a “waste of time”. “Have a consultation - the result of which is opposition to a hike - take it into consideration, then still go ahead with your original plan anyway,” they said.
Pharmacy technician Brian Smith agreed with the criticism, and pointed out that “people in some areas of pharmacy have had no pay rise and even pay cuts”. “Those that have agreed with the increases are obviously earning much more than the rest of us,” he added.