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GPhC reforms allow fitness-to-practise resolutions without hearings

"The GPhC’s survival – for now – does not mean it will stay as it is"

General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) changes enable fitness-to-practise resolutions without full hearings on a consensual basis, says legal expert David Reissner

In a previous blog, I asked whether the days of the GPhC were numbered. In October 2017, the Department of Health and Social Care (DH) opened a consultation on whether there should be rationalisation of the nine current healthcare regulators. The DH has now considered the responses to the consultation and concluded this month…that it needs another consultation before a decision can be made.

The GPhC’s survival – for now – does not mean it will stay as it is. The GPhC and all the other regulators will be restructured. Its council will become a board comprising executive and non-executive directors, with the non-executives forming the majority. Current and former registrants may be appointed to the board, but they will not form a majority. A proposal for employers to be represented on the new GPhC board has been dropped, but the government expects all regulators to actively seek and consider the views of employers.

There will be reforms “to enable [healthcare] regulators to place a greater emphasis on supporting the professionalism of all registrants, while continuing to take appropriate action to manage concerns about a minority of professionals”.

The most significant changes will enable the GPhC to resolve fitness-to-practise cases without the need for a full hearing. The GPhC will be able to:

  • use case examiners to consider complaints and resolve them on a consensual basis
  • include mediation as part of the fitness-to-practise process [where an independent person helps both sides to reach a decision]
  • remove registrants from the register automatically where they have been convicted of a very serious criminal offence in the UK.

If a case is not resolved consensually, the current processes will become more collaborative and less adversarial, because the government said in its consultation response it regards existing processes as “bureaucratic and lengthy, which can be frustrating and stressful for patients and their families, registrants and employers. They are also legalistic and adversarial, and this can be detrimental to the development of a learning culture”.

In addition, the GPhC will be required to update patients and family members on the progress of fitness-to-practise cases in which they have an interest.

The ability to resolve cases in a consensual way should be welcomed. Even though it is often clear what the final sanction of a fitness-to-practise case is likely to be, currently pharmacists and pharmacy technicians often have to wait many months for a hearing. Their lives are put on hold, and they and their families have the stress of proceedings hanging over their heads. I’m not convinced that making hearings less adversarial is a good idea when someone’s career is on the line, but that’s for another day.

Read the GPhC’s response to the DH consultation.

David Reissner is chair of the Pharmacy Law and Ethics Association

12 Comments

ABC DEF, Primary care pharmacist

I bet GPhC is one of the most useless out of all 9 healthcare regulators. Time to fire all its board members and reform with people with some common sense and normal IQ.  

Interleukin -2, Community pharmacist

Whao.. never knew GPhC was fighting for survival ? Pls how soon can we expect aforesaid reforms ? 

Tom Jerry, Community pharmacist

Simple lobby your MP...

Andrew Paxton, Community pharmacist

I'm due a FtP hearing soon.  Will this be without me?

Tom Jerry, Community pharmacist

....and it's not a good feeling I bet....Why are us Pharmacist so easy targets, with years of educational investment, unrealistic work/life balances, choked by paperwork/administration overload..just does not make sense!!! There's one thing I ask of then PSNC during their negotiations, is that like every other Profession is jist to have some PLT, during working Hours and not late in the evening when my responsibility should be putting my kids to bed after a good story...a simple request and it would greatly reduce all these FtP fracas....good luck by the way

Ranjeev Patel, Non Pharmacist Branch Manager

Good luck indeed, the GPhC is definitely NOT on your side!

Tom Jerry, Community pharmacist

I had a patient whom made a complaint to the GMC about a GP, she was sent a blunt letter in response. This made her feel intimidated which resulted in her not taken her concerns any further. Whereas a complaint to the GPhC would have resulted in the compilation of a dosier, arriving by surprise, recorded mail, causing great anxiety to a pharmacist, who is more likely under a great deal of work related stress.....the regulatory system does need urgent unification, standardisation but more importantly fairness....and a move away from the outdated "L.A.P.D" style of enforcement...

R A, Community pharmacist

Pharmacists are viewed as disposable gloves!

Thanks to the over proliferation of pharmacy schools easier to be heavy handed with pharmacists, because regulators know even if one is removed two will step up to replace the loss of the original pharmacist. 

Paul Dishman, Pharmaceutical Adviser

Does this mean they will still be afraid of the multiples?

Bob Dunkley, Locum pharmacist

What would become of Fitness to Practice hearings where health issues are present?

Interleukin -2, Community pharmacist

Support in various forms ? 

Ranjeev Patel, Non Pharmacist Branch Manager

Whereas in the past "support" has meant going to see the GPhC doctor? What kind of support is that if they are just trying to crucify you?

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