As Monty Python might have asked, what has the GPhC ever done for us? The answer might be:
- defining education requirements
- maintaining registers of pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and premises
- setting standards
- inspecting premises
- investigating concerns and managing the fitness-to-practise process.
It sounds very dull, but someone has to do it.
When the government consulted on whether there should be a consolidation of the nine healthcare regulators and suggested the GPhC and other regulators should be reconstructed in its conclusion in July, the GPhC disagreed. That’s hardly surprising, because turkeys don’t vote for Christmas. Outside of the GPhC, does anyone care? I doubt it, but I believe they should.
The GPhC’s council has 14 members, including six pharmacists and a pharmacy technician. As I wrote when commenting on the government’s response to the consultation, each of the healthcare regulators will have a board comprising of executive and non-executive directors, with the non-executives in the majority.
The GPhC announced last week that it was recruiting three new board members – two pharmacy professionals and one member of the public. The real issue isn't how many non-executives there are, but the experience of the 'pharmacy professionals' on the board.
Of the seven pharmacy professionals on the GPhC’s council, none has any recent experience of community pharmacy, except for one who does some occasional locum work. Pharmacy is, of course, a broad church with significant and important involvement in industry, academia and increasingly in GP practices, among other areas.
However, community pharmacy is the largest sector in which pharmacists practise. It is the area at which most of the GPhC’s standards and guidance are directed, yet the regulator's composition is not representative of pharmacy practice. You might argue that this doesn’t matter because the GPhC’s attitude is not to dictate how pharmacy owners and pharmacy professionals comply with its standards. However, the GPhC does, in fact, have an important say in pharmacy practice not only through its standards and guidance but through its inspections, the reports of which will soon be published.
The GPhC’s main function is to “protect, promote and maintain the health, safety and well being of members of the public”. It will do that better if its board has members with significant experience of community pharmacy. I hope that people with such experience will apply to the new positions.
In response to this article, the GPhC pointed to its description of its council members. It noted that the council consists of 14 members, split equally between pharmacists or pharmacy technicians and people who have never been registered as healthcare professionals. This “allows the council to reflect the diversity of the profession and the wider public and to bring in knowledge and experience from both inside and outside pharmacy”, it said.
The GPhC also highlighted the Professional Standards Authority's guidance on selecting councils, which says: “When developing selection criteria, it is important to bear in mind that council members are not ‘representatives’ of any organisation, or profession, or viewpoint. As we have stated elsewhere, councils need to be credible through their performance and the mix of background, knowledge and skills of their members, not because members individually are representatives of particular interests or constituencies.”
David Reissner is chair of the Pharmacy Law and Ethics Association