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GPhC receives six whistleblowing disclosures in one year

GPhC: Two of the disclosures ended with guidance given to the employer
GPhC: Two of the disclosures ended with guidance given to the employer

The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) took action in five out of six whistleblowing disclosures it received over a 12-month period, it has said.

The GPhC received the six reports between April 1, 2017 and March 31, 2018 (see definition of whistleblowing below).

Three of the cases were investigated through the regulator’s fitness-to-practise process, but no further action was taken, the GPhC said in a joint report published yesterday (September 11) with seven other professional regulators.

Two of the disclosures were investigated by a GPhC inspector, ending with “guidance given to the employer by the inspector”, while one is “still under consideration”, it said.

The concerns raised by whistleblowers were “widely shared” with GPhC inspectors, it added.

“These issues inform our work on understanding the experiences of pharmacy professionals in the community pharmacy environment,” it continued.

The number of disclosures was revealed for the first time by the GPhC, after a legal requirement came into force in April 2017 requiring organisations in areas ranging from healthcare to the police to publish an annual report on the topic.

The number of disclosures reported by other healthcare regulators ranged from none received by the General Chiropractic Council, to 61 received by the General Dental Council.

C+D has requested further detail of the disclosures from the GPhC.

What is whistleblowing?

The government’s guidance on whistleblowing defines the following categories:

  • A criminal offence (for example, types of financial impropriety such as fraud)
  • a breach of a legal obligation
  • a miscarriage of justice
  • danger to the health or safety of any individual
  • damage to the environment
  • the deliberate covering up of wrongdoing in the above categories.

Source: Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy


View the GPhC’s guidance on raising concerns here

Would you raise a concern with the GPhC?

CAPT FX, Locum pharmacist

I will not be surprised that the whistleblowers have lost their job and that they are now going through the Fitness to Practice process. Employers use the threat to report to the GPHC as a bullying and intimidation tool. The GPHC on the other hand are always delighted to act as the de facto HR department of Pharmacy Chains. 

The GPHC have lost their relevance in the modern world. How can they claim to protect the public when they can not regulate Pharmacy owners. Ever since Mr Rudkin's ascendency to the throne they have been issuing "GUIDANCE" at every turn. Can someone explain what this guidance is and how it is helping anyone. Registrants suffer punitive action, even for trivial issues simply because they have targets to show they are doing something. 

The GPHC had another whitewash of a process when they consulted on New Premises standards or GUIDANCE. Without punitive action for owners it is a waste of time and will be ignored like everything else. We are the only profession who will accept anyone to own a Pharmacy. 

Peter Sainsburys, Community pharmacist

GPhC seems only to punish individual pharmacists. In FtP cases, they totally disregard claims that the pharmacist was being bullied by the area manager, or that the pharmacist was forced to work in an understaffed pharmacy. They ignore things that they know will be difficult to deal with.

If, as a pharmacist, you whistleblow, you can expect 2 things:

1. GPhC will do nothing.

2. Either you will lose your job or be branded as a troublemaker forever. Good luck finding another job.

As a pharmacist, when I have raised issues with the GPhC I have been fobbed off 100% of the time. They are useless, not fit for purpose, but it seems like Rudkin is going to cling onto that paypacket for as long as he can.

The occasional bluster he puts out is laughable. I would love to know what his daily routine is like. Ignore any complaints against the big multiples because they are paying for his lunch, but come down on the individual family pharmacist because they have been accused of something petty by someone with an axe to grind.

Whatever you ask the GPhC to do they will always say "we only take action to protect the public". So why aren't they doing anything about gross understaffing by the big multiples? Because they are in bed with them and the more errors pharmacists do, the more work the paralegals at Canary Wharf will get.

Utterly disguting and outrageous behaviour, and the sooner someone actually calls this out and makes it public, the better.

If you take a step back, and consider that Lloyds, Boots and the GPhC *may* be the same entity, it makes everything fall in to place perfectly.

Pharmacy Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

Only 6 Whistleblowers? Why? Because everyone knows it’s pointless. The GPhC never take any action against employers. Incapable of any regulation. 

Missed the point Mr. Hall. The real point is 6 whistleblowers and no action. Which is bound to make the 6 whistleblowers think what is the point!

Adam Hall, Community pharmacist

I don't disagree but we have come at this from different directions. In the end, not all complaints are valid but all complaints must be investigated

Peter Sainsburys, Community pharmacist

Let's imagine a hypothetical situation.

Imagine that supermarkets in the UK are regulated by a professional body, let's call them the "GSmC", The General Supermarket Council.

Now, this body is mandated to protect the public from bad practice and risky behaviour in supermarkets in the UK.

However, they solely focus on reprimanding the customer facing staff, i.e. the checkout operators and floor staff because they are easy targets, they are not rich and will not be able to put up a decent legal battle due to lack of funds.

They never go after the store managers, the department managers or the CEOs, the people making the real money, because they are scared that they will have lawyers and insurance. (They will because the company takes care of them).

So, they focus on the soft targets, just as any bully would do.

The staff have to do what their managers tell them, and face getting into trouble with the GSmC for doing so. However, they have mortgages to pay and families to feed so they do what they are told.

However, if there is an issue, it is always blamed on the customer-facing staff, who are sacked and instantly replaced. Their careers are ruined.

So the supermarket managers are never in danger, they will keep getting paid crazy money, and the supermarket regulator is happy because it has plenty of cannon fodder to make it look like it is of use to the public (it is NOT!).

The supermarket bosses are good friends with the GSmC so they know that they are immune, and they also realise that this means that can put immense pressure on their customer-facing staff without fear of retribution.

And all the while, the head of the GSmC is getting paid 130k+, plus benefits, to sit in one of the most expensive executive offices in the country.

Adam Hall, Community pharmacist

6 whistleblowers and no action (as yet) - I wonder how many of the reports were from disgruntled employees looking to put the boot in?

Peter Sainsburys, Community pharmacist

Why are you surprised? The GPhC can take years to come to a decision.

Also, why is it that they take action against pharmacists almost on a whim, yet when the Boots whistleblower provided a portfolio of concrete evidence about understaffing, they dismissed it? If that isn't suspicious, I don't know what is. If someone provided a portfolio of evidence to suggest a pharmacist was doing something fishy (partuclarly if it was something putting the public at risk purely for monetary gain), I can guarantee you they wouldn't dismiss it because it would be easy pickings for them.

A big company like Boots, on the other hand, will have a barrage of corporate lawyers which the GPhC would have to face, and they can't be arsed. Much easier to keep sanctioning pharmacists for errors and disregarding any mitigating circumstances. Mind you, if I had an office at Canary Wharf then I would want to stay there as long as possible, too.

They know that if they try and rock the boat with the big players in the industry, it will be a long and expensive ordeal. So they don't do it.

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