The GPhC has today (March 10) launched a consultation on how it sets its fees for pharmacists and pharmacy technicians. Pharmacy professionals have until June 2 to share their views.
In council papers published ahead of its February 11 meeting, the GPhC said the consultation – which it “is not proposing changes to the amount paid in fees by any of our registrants” – will seek feedback on keeping the same flat rate fees for pharmacists and pharmacy technicians respectively, and to charge fees for all courses the GPhC accredits and reaccredits.
An analysis of the consultation responses will be presented to the council in September 2021, while a different consultation on how the regulator sets fees for pharmacy premises is expected to be launched in 2022, the regulator said.
Same fees for multiple years
Instead of reviewing the registration fees of pharmacists and pharmacy technicians every year, the GPhC is proposing that these fees remain unchanged for multiple years – for example, by revisiting them every three years.
“We think that multi-year fees cycles will allow for better forward financial planning for both us and registrants; reduce the number of consultations we run, thereby reduce costs and the pressure caused by undertaking and responding to a consultation exercise; and allow us to smooth out any increases over a longer period of time,” the GPhC said.
The regulator specified that through this approach, fees “will be set according to the financial information available at the time and may mean that some years they could remain the same”.
However, in an unforeseen “emergency situation”, the GPhC “may need to make exceptional fee changes within the three-year cycle” and adjust the fees accordingly, following a consultation, it added.
Retain flat-fee structure
As part of the consultation, the GPhC argues that registered pharmacists and pharmacy technicians should all pay the same fee for their respective categories. For registration renewal, these are currently set at £257 for pharmacists and £121 for pharmacy technicians, while both pharmacists and pharmacy technicians who are joining the register for the first time pay £106 as a non-refundable application fee, plus the appropriate registration fee, a GPhC spokesperson told C+D today.
The regulator said that respondents to other GPhC consultations on registration fees previously flagged that the differential fees should be introduced for certain groups, such as part-time workers, people on low income, workers on parental leave and newly qualified registrants.
It concluded that differential fees “are not viable” as “a reduction in fees for one or more of the groups would result in an increase in fees for others as it is necessary to cover the cost of regulation”, which is “unfair to those not eligible for differential fees”.
The regulator will also need to invest “extra time and resources” if the differential fees are introduced, which “would increase the cost of regulation”.
In addition, as some employers cover the GPhC registration fees on behalf of their pharmacists and pharmacy technicians, “assessments of impact may need to factor in employers’ as well as individuals’ ability to pay”, which will also up the cost of regulation, the GPhC added.
While the GPhC currently sets two different fees for pharmacy technicians and pharmacists, it specified that this is “not determined by their income”, but rather by the fact that fewer pharmacy technicians go through the fitness-to-practise process, meaning they have a lower regulatory cost, the regulator said.
Pharmacy premises fees will increase to £365 from April. The GPhC had originally planned to introduce the £103 increase in October but decided to delay it due to the COVID-19 pressures faced by the sector.
*This article was updated on March 10 to mark the launch of the consultation.