The Professional Standards Authority (the body which oversees the UK's 10 health and care regulators) has today published its 2018/19 annual performance review of the General Pharmaceutical Council, or GPhC.
On a positive note, the GPhC is meeting all the Standards of Good Regulation in the categories of Guidance & Standards, Education & Training and Registration.
However, in relation to the crucial Fitness To Practise category - in our experience, the category of greatest interest to most registrants - the GPhC is failing to meet 4 of the 10 Standards of Good Regulation.
The standards not met by the GPhC are:
Standard 5 - The fitness to practise process is transparent, fair, proportionate and focused on public protection.
Standard 6 - Fitness to practise cases are dealt with as quickly as possible, taking into account the complexity and type of case and the conduct of both sides. Delays do not result in harm or potential harm to patients and service users. Where necessary, the regulator protects the public by means of interim orders.
Standard 7 - All parties to a fitness to practise case are kept updated on the progress of their case and supported to participate effectively in the process.
Standard 8 - All fitness to practise decisions made at the initial and final stages of the process are well reasoned, consistent, protect the public and maintain confidence in the profession.
The Professional Standards Authority's conclusions will not come as a surprise to those of us who regularly represent pharmacists and pharmacy technicians in GPhC fitness to practise proceedings. The median time for a fitness to practise concern to proceed from receipt by the GPhC to a final hearing is now 93.7 weeks - nearly two years. When registrants must endure the distress of the fitness to practise process lasting so long, with a well-documented resulting impact on their mental health, it is unacceptable that the GPhC's conduct of its fitness to practise process fails to meet basic standards such as fairness, transparency and consistency. With the number of fitness to practise complaints submitted to the GPhC rising by 10% between 2017/18 and 2018/19, the GPhC's fitness to practise process is impacting greater numbers of pharmacists and pharmacy technicians than ever before and it must work effectively.
In response to the performance review, the GPhC has "committed to implementing measures to improve the areas where [the PSA] has identified concerns" and has published an action plan, which can be viewed here: https://tinyurl.com/s3vkcgw
Many of the actions within the GPhC's plan are due to be completed urgently, for example by the end of March 2020, so it is to be hoped that we will see evidence of positive change very soon.
Our concerns relate to: * the transparency and fairness of some of the fitness to practise processes being followed * the timeliness of the investigations being conducted * the customer service provided to parties involved in fitness to practise cases * the quality of record-keeping * the decision-making at the initial stages of the fitness to practise process.