The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) will review its registrant fee levels in light of its £600,000 deficit, C+D has learned.
The regulator would consider a "package of proposals" to boost funds at its next council meeting in February, including a review of its fee levels and structures, GPhC chief executive Duncan Rudkin told C+D in an exclusive interview on Friday (November 14).
Mr Rudkin said the GPhC's £616,000 deficit, revealed in papers published ahead of its council meeting on Thursday (November 13), was expected to be even higher due to the need to fund complaints handling and its new premises inspection model.
Although it was too early to say how the GPhC would combat the deficit, there were a number of potential measures, including reducing costs by dealing with complaints more efficiently, said Mr Rudkin. He defended the GPhC's decision to put funds into the new inspection regime.
"It's right for us to invest in developing an inspection model that's more comprehensive and robust. We need to make sure that we can explain and challenge ourselves on the cost of doing that, but I don't think it's something that we feel is optional," he told C+D.
Mr Rudkin also predicted there would be further costs involved with the continuing fitness-to-practise model, which will require pharmacists and technicians to prove their competence on an ongoing basis. "It's right that we do that because the public need [a] greater level of assurance than they ever had [before] as they're expecting more from pharmacists," he said.
The GPhC spent £11 million between April and September, it said in its papers, including more than £3m on its premises inspections and fitness-to-practise cases.
The cost to renew registration is currently £240 for pharmacists, £108 for pharmacy technicians and £221 for registered pharmacies, which accounted for more than £9m of funds to the GPhC in the same period.
The GPhC has not increased fees since 2011, when it voted to raise the rate for pharmacists by 2 per cent. In February, the GPhC pledged to freeze registrants' fees for a year, despite an estimated £4m rise in costs over the previous year. It was too early to determine whether fees would remain unchanged for 2015-16, Mr Rudkin said at the time.