The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) has defended its plans to raise registration fees for the first time in three years in the face of criticism from C+D readers.
The regulator revealed last week (February 5) that fees for pharmacists and technicians could both increase by £10 this year to £250 and £118 respectively. The regulator also announced plans to raise premises fees by £20 to £241.
Posting on the C+D website, locum pharmacist Duncan Fletcher asked the GPhC to “quantify how much it costs to regulate each group” and how this related to its fees.
The GPhC responded that it had tried to ensure the fees were “fair and proportionate” for each registrant group. It pointed to papers published ahead of its council meeting last week, which explained that its method for calculating fees had been “enhanced” by Barry McCormack, director of the Centre for Health Services Economics and Organisation at the University of Oxford.
Breakdown of spending
Although fee setting was an "imprecise science", the levels aimed to reflect the costs of regulating each group, the GPhC said. The council papers revealed that more than three quarters of the GPhC’s inspection teams’ costs were spent on premises inspections and the remainder was spent on investigations. It said it also looked at the costs of fitness-to-practice cases last year, of which 90 per cent had been spent on pharmacists and 10 per cent spent on technicians.
Fifty-seven per cent of the regulator’s customer services costs had been spent on pharmacists, compared to 26 per cent on technicians and 17 per cent on premises, it added.
The GPhC faced a predicted deficit of £1.7 million for 2014-15 and the fee increases would contribute towards its objective of breaking even by 2017-18, it stressed.
But pharmacy technician Brian Smith questioned whether this justified the increase. “I just wonder what we get for these registration fees. I understand the initial cost of registering a person, but after that why so much?” he posted on the C+D site.
A C+D reader posting as Disillusioned Pharmacist asked why the GPhC had announced it would freeze pre-registration year and exam fees “for the foreseeable future” and consider reducing them in 2016. “We are flooded with pharmacists. We should be putting the fees up to try and decrease the number on the register,” the reader said.
The changes are due to come into effect in October, subject to a consultation seeking views from the profession that will launch next week. The increase in fees are set to raise approximately £1 million for the GPhC by 2016-17 because the majority of pharmacists and technicians are set to renew their registration in January.