Sandra Gidley

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society has welcomed the pharmacy regulator’s ambition to better understand why a disproportionately higher number of concerns about black, Asian and minority ethnic professionals are made.

In its response its response to the General Pharmaceutical Council’s consultation on its future strategy for managing fitness to practise (FtP) concerns about pharmacy professionals, the RPS said “inclusion and diversity” should be given “greater prominence”.

“The RPS is committed to making inclusion and diversity (I&D) central to the way we champion the pharmacy profession. We welcome the aim of addressing challenges in how the GPhC considers equality, diversity and inclusion. We accept that this is considered as part of strategic aim… However we believe it warrants greater prominence and should be included as a stand-alone strategic aim.”

The GPhC’s fitness to practice strategy prepared during the Covid-19 pandemic aims to protect community pharmacists and the public through better practices. The strategy aims to give patients and the public better protection while being fair to pharmacy professionals.

Commenting on the GPhC consultation which concluded last week (Jan 22), the RPS president Sandra Gidley said: “We very much welcome the consultation, which aims to ensure patients are protected whilst promoting and encouraging a learning culture that allows pharmacy professionals to deal with any concerns and go back to practising in appropriate circumstances.”

With the consultation, the GPhC aims to make sure that its FtP work remains relevant and that it continues to deliver its main objective of protecting the public. It also aims to take quick action to protect patients when that is needed. Additionally, the consultation aims to minimise potential biases against BAME professionals.

“Registrants from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities are currently disproportionately represented in FtP cases. By talking to our membership and the wider profession, including our ABCD group, we have identified potential barriers for people with protected characteristics and suggested measures to address any inequalities and bias within decision making. We would like to see further transparency and details from the GPhC as to how they are working to remove potential barriers,” the RPS president added.

In its ambition to minimise and deal with the risk of potential biases, the GPhC will be providing training to all FtP decision makers on unconscious bias.

“RPS members told us the length of time some fitness to practice cases take is a huge burden and needs to be reduced. When registrants are investigated, whether formally or informally, there are adverse implications for their careers, reputation and wellbeing. We are pleased to see an emphasis on improving this. We’d also like to see greater prominence placed on this and on the mental health and wellbeing of those involved,” Gidley said.

“We are pleased with the person-centred approach which, when applied, will offer greater support for everyone involved in FtP cases. We also support the aim of promoting reflection and learning through the use of several, more flexible, outcomes such as reflective pieces and mediation. However, more detail is needed on these proposals.”

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