On January 7, the GPhC announced that it is consulting on proposals to increase pharmacy premises fees by a whopping 39%. This would mean every pharmacy would need to fork out an extra £103 this October to stay registered.
The GPhC increased fees by £7 for pharmacists last year, and at the same time started rambling on about moving its office to a cheaper location. My heart bleeds. The regulator stayed put in Canary Wharf, London and it expects contractors to foot the bill.
I wasn't surprised in the slightest by the proposed fee increase. The GPhC knows that many pharmacies will either shut down or merge in the near future. I feel it has accepted the estimation that 3,000 pharmacies will close because of the 2016 funding cuts.
This would mean less income from fees, so the regulator is striking while the iron is hot. It will recoup its losses from the remaining pharmacies through the fee increase, making sure it can stay afloat despite the reduced number of pharmacies.
GPhC chief executive Duncan Rudkin said in a statement: “We recognise the financial pressures that pharmacy owners are under and any uplift in fees is only proposed when necessary.”
Yes, I agree the fee increase is necessary, but only for the GPhC. This way it will ensure there are no changes to its headquarters if a lot of pharmacies shut down.
Mr Rudkin also said that since 2013, the GPhC has “introduced significant changes” in how it regulates and inspect pharmacies, “improving the effectiveness” of its regulatory approach and “bringing benefits to patients, the public and pharmacies”.
“We are proposing this change now because we need a robust and sustainable financial framework with fees that reflect the true cost of regulation,” he added.
I haven't noticed any significant changes. Aside from the public reporting of pharmacy’s performance, what other “significant changes” do we deserve to pay for?
The GPhC also said it welcomes views on the proposals. I have sent curt replies in response, and I am pretty sure that every other contractor has too.
Now, £103 is not going to break an already broken bank if you own one or two pharmacies. However, for medium and large chains, this fee increase will be significant.
If there will ultimately be fewer pharmacies to inspect, then there will be less work for the GPhC. It should balance its books like contractors have had to. Cut down on staff and get out of Canary Wharf.
The Contractor is an independent pharmacy owner in England
Pharmacy professionals have until March 31 to respond to the GPhC consultation.
In response to this article the GPhC told C+D it has nothing to add at this stage but welcomes responses to the consultation.