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GPhC: Outsourcing FTP cases is 'normal practice'

The regulator says it uses two firms for fitness-to-practise cases "as and when required"

The GPhC says it passes fitness-to-practise cases to external lawyers "as and when required" but keeps the majority in-house, after it was criticised by law firm partner Noel Wardle for "shipping out" cases


The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) has defended its use of external lawyers to deal with certain fitness-to-practise cases as "normal practice" for regulators, after it was criticised by pharmacy lawyer Noel Wardle.

Mr Wardle, partner at law firm Charles Russell, told C+D that he was concerned that the GPhC was "shipping out" cases to lawyers "who do not know anything about pharmacy". If these lawyers were not familiar with the sector then there was a risk they would miss information relevant to the investigations, he said.

But the GPhC told C+D it carried out its own quality assurance of any external lawyers it used and that it kept the "majority" of cases "in-house".

Mr Wardle said one lawyer acting for the GPhC had called him to ask about a fitness-to-practise case, and had admitted that he did "not actually know that much about pharmacy practice". 

Passing cases to different lawyers also meant there was not a single body overseeing all the cases and "sharing ideas", Mr Wardle said. "It's all being dealt with by individual paralegals who don't have an overview, [so] you can't get a feel for what's [happening] on the ground. I think that's missing," he told C+D.

The GPhC told C+D that it used two firms to present some fitness-to-practise cases and undertake investigations "as and when required". This was "normal practice with regulators" and there had been no change to its policy, which meant the majority of cases were carried out by GPhC lawyers and "will continue to remain so", the regulator stressed.

If Mr Wardle had any "specific concerns" about its legal processes then he should raise them directly with the regulator, it added.

In June, regulatory watchdog the Professional Standards Authority (PSA) found that the GPhC was an effective regulator, meeting nine out of the PSA's 10 standards of good fitness-to-practise regulation.

In April, Mr Wardle criticised the GPhC's handling of the BBC exposé of pharmacists allegedly selling prescrition-only medicines illegally, saying the regulator was wrong to publish the identities of pharmacists given interim suspensions as a result of the broadcaster's investigation. 

Have you undergone fitness-to-practise procedures involving external lawyers?

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Sami Khaderia, Non healthcare professional

Pharmacists have sleep walked into a situation where there doesnt seem to be any light at the end of the tunnel.

Josephine Raffaitin, Community pharmacist

This isn't new and isn't news worthy. GPhC and the RPSGB before it always outsourced some legal work. In fact less is outsourced now than in RPSGB days. All regulators do it and certain firms/individual legal advisors specialise in this area. I would suggest volume of work would make it impossible for GPhC to deal with cases expediently WITHOUT recourse to external legal support.

Sami Khaderia, Non healthcare professional

Charity calls for regulation on sales of laxatives to children


Roy Sinclair, Community pharmacist

Come on. Are you really saying you are surprised that the GPhC would actually consult external lawyers on some cases ? Considering the range of recent FTP cases reported, seeking external expert legal advice would seem to have been unavoidable.
It also seems to be standard practice for one professional / legal team to challenge or criticise the methods of the opposing team where this may prove to be advantageous.

Sami Khaderia, Non healthcare professional

Lions led by donkeys

Baber Yaqub, Pharmacy

Most commendable and courageous stance from Mr Noel esq.

As a fee payer, I would like to see more transparency on which legal firms are being delegated these FtP cases. Are we getting our value for money?

London Locum, Locum pharmacist

Heck, It only involves peoples livelihoods. Nothing important so why not ship them out. Ship them out as quickly as the multiples are giving them cases.

Hmm. I didn't know this was a thing, and I must admit that it would worry me rather a lot to have non-pharmacy specific lawyers dealing with a case.

Pharmacy is such a unique profession. The laws we abide are often nuanced, and require professional interpretation. Perhaps an outsourced lawyer could easily act within such nuances, but I'd like assurances that this is the case first.

I'm also not convinced that I would my personal details passed onto a third party. I'm assuming that sort of thing has been considered by the GPhC.

Abid P, Primary care pharmacist

This could explain all the inconsistent judgments we've been seeing on recent FTP cases.

[email protected], Community pharmacist

So we pay the GPHC to regulate us and they pass it off to someone else.

I assume they are making sure they aren't paying too much for this, so that they don't waste our money and can make sure they can keep their nice fat pay cheques.

Maybe we should just skip the GPHC and get a body of lawyers to do the job. Miss out the middle man, clear out the dead wood and save a few pound.

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