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‘The GPhC’s council is not representative of community pharmacy’

"The GPhC does, in fact, have an important say in pharmacy practice"

The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) would function better if its board had more representation from community pharmacy, says legal expert David Reissner

As Monty Python might have asked, what has the GPhC ever done for us? The answer might be:

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

7 Comments

Chemical Mistry, Information Technology

Matter of time before there will all encompassing health regulator for all professions  funnily the Gphc opposed it in the consultation. Then will see if Duncan can get on the board wonder if the dental council will have him back and if doing such good job how come nobody headhunted him.

R T, Manager

Why cant we vote in our chief exec into the gphc? I thought we lived in a democracy? We wouldn't vote in someone who had never been MP as prime minister nor would they probably be allowed, so why the hell is a dude who hasnt got a pharmacy degree in the chief exec chair? How the hell does that work? That has been the start of all the issues we have been facing in the past 10 years. Until he is forced out and we implement a system of voting in a chief exec say every 6 years, only then will we see the changes we need. Duncan rudkin runs this as an autocratic dictator would, no need to worry that he wont get paid, just stay in the job as long as he can.

Ranjeev Patel, Non Pharmacist Branch Manager

So what this article says to me, is that the GPhC is not fit for purpose re: regulating community pharmacy, something which I suspect most pharmacists in the UK have known for a long time. The GPhC is run by a dentist, and only has one council member who does "the odd bit of locum work". Who thought that this was acceptable?

If the council members don't have experience of community pharmacy, what kind of pharmacy do they have experience of? I was under the impression that hospital pharmacy was under the thumb of the CQC, so what on Earth is going on at the GPhC? There are some well paid positions at the GPhC, I'd love to try and find out how these people managed to get these plum roles without community pharmacy experience.

I wonder if any of the GPhC council members have financial interests in, or any other ties to any of the large multiples - that would explain everything.

Uma Patel, Community pharmacist

We used to moan about RPS inspectors. However they were far more pragmatic than GPhC inspectors.If there is a supra national regulator, it would be one more step further away from the humble community pharmacist 

CAPT FX, Locum pharmacist

It's not surprising at all to note that the GPHC has minimal or no input from Community Pharmacy. It's glaringly obvious. This is the only country in the world, ( The Third world included) where a Company that owns a Pharmacy is not accountable to anyone. Or should I say where the regulatory body feels they can never do no wrong. Registrants every day accuse the GPHC of being the HR department of multiples precisely for this reason. Look at the Contactors arrogance, untrained staff, appalling premises which are barely fit for a corner shop yet every Pharmacy gets satisfactory all the time. I have worked in Pharmacies that would be deemed a health and safety risk even if they went meant to be pig stys but they pass. Football, a game where twenty two adults chase a leather round thing, has the sense to determine who is fit or proper to own a Pharmacy. Yet in Pharmacy, I am sure if Ratko Mladic is exonerated at the Hague we will welcome him as fit and proper to own a Pharmacy( no questions asked). This is a reflection of how the GPHC is so out of touch with the very profession it's meant to regulate. There are no excuses because we have had one CEO from the RPS days and you don't occupy this position when you don't know the Profession. Now we have Hub and Spoke, Online dispensing, dispensing Doctors. As always the GPHC rather than being pro-active are being reactive. Yet their persecution and prosecution of registrants, in most cases, for shop floor gossip and grudges, knows no limits.
The GPHC needs a complete overhaul and review so that for once it starts to serve it's real purpose.

Andrew carr, Pharmacy technician

About time representation was consolidated into one body that actually did it's job. https://platform.organise.org.uk/campaigns/pharmacy-reform

A.S. Singh, Community pharmacist

I completely agree. Unite as a profession and Pharmacists can bring downfall to the unfit GPhC

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