The Pharmacists’ Defence Association has raised apprehensions regarding the General Pharmaceutical Council’s consultation on their proposal to raise the registration fees for pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, and pharmacy premises. The PDA criticised the GPhC’s justification for the fee increase as wholly inadequate.
In May, the GPhC began a consultation concerning increases in registration and renewal fees for pharmacies, pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, and traineestrain. The GPhC linked the proposed increase mainly to the substantial surge in the current inflation rate, which is currently pegged at 10 percent annually.
According to GPhC’s proposal, there would be a uniform 7.5 per cent increase in fees:
- Pharmacist renewal fees would increase by £19 from £257 to £276
- Pharmacy technician renewal fees would increase by £9 from £121 to £130
- Pharmacy premises renewal fees would increase by £27 from £365 to £392
In response to the regulatory body’s proposal, the union noted a significant level of concern expressed in its member survey responses, particularly regarding the GPhC premises in Canary Wharf. Furthermore, there was discussion about the overlooked potential for relocating to more cost-effective office spaces elsewhere.
The GPhC failed to mention in the consultation document its commitment to allocate approximately £9.3 million in cash for acquiring fixed assets within a 24-month timeframe, as stated in the PDA’s response. This expenditure includes the procurement of fixtures and fittings for its newly acquired offices in Canary Wharf.
The union pointed out that despite the regulator’s transition to a more affordable office space, the GPhC still maintains its presence in the ‘central financial district’ of Canary Wharf. The union further emphasized that it cannot identify any evidence indicating that the GPhC explored alternative locations.
The PDA also cited the case of the General Dental Council, which transferred numerous functions to Birmingham premises, resulting in ‘net savings of approximately £50 million over 15 years,’ equivalent to an average of £3.33 million annually.
The GPhC is utilising registrants’ funds, and the PDA has expressed its inability to support a fee increase without comprehensive disclosure on Canary Wharf office costs and a clear rationale for selecting the location based on financial considerations. The council documents indicate that comparable savings for the accommodation amount to nearly £0.9 million annually.
The regulator’s consultation document from May indicated that it would encounter a deficit unless it raises its income, as per its budget forecasting. However, the PDA contested this statement, highlighting that the regulator’s ‘fixed asset valuation’ of £0.8 million in 2023 is projected to rise significantly to £10.1 million by 2025.
The union noted that this ‘indicates’ the GPhC’s involvement in a significant spending effort of £9.3 million, with suspicions that a substantial portion of this expenditure is directed towards fittings at the regulator’s new headquarters.
The PDA asserted that the GPhC has “not revealed” its methodology for determining the cost of regulating each group of registrants, even though the union submitted a freedom of information request to the regulator.
According to the PDA, the GPhC had not provided evidence to support its claim that fees are determined by the cost of regulating each registrant group. The union highlighted that online pharmacies now account for ‘more than 30 per cent of open fitness-to-practise cases’ and argued that this ‘should result’ in a higher fee for premises owners.
It urged the GPhC to practice complete transparency concerning its asset acquisition, particularly the expenses associated with outfitting its elaborate new office area.
The PDA members had shown strong support for a proposal to implement a concessionary system for registration fees targeting pharmacists with lower incomes.
More than 80 per cent of participants in its survey indicated that they personally covered their registration fees, thus implying that pharmacists not engaged in full-time work would experience a direct individual impact due to a fee hike, the PDA said.
Although only 30 per cent of respondents identified as part-time workers, a substantial 84 per cent favoured reduced fees for individuals with lower incomes, the Union said, adding that implementing a ‘flat low-income concession’ would be a more equitable approach.
The GPhC is currently reviewing consultation feedback and plans to publish an autumn report, including the PDA’s response, which will influence final decisions.
Meanwhile, the GPhC recently announced plans to select five new council members from diverse professional and personal backgrounds over the next two years, coinciding with the culmination of the current members’ terms. In July, the regulator revealed plans to appoint a new Chief Pharmacy Officer, thereby strengthening the professional perspective within the senior leadership team and cultivating a culture of enterprise leadership, inclusivity, and collaboration within the organisation.