The National Pharmacy Association (NPA) has warned the government against amalgamating health regulators and removing the General Pharmaceutical Council’s (GPhC) regulatory autonomy which it fears could jeopardise pharmacy practice and patient care.

A Department of Health consultation on plans to reduce the number of health regulators from nine to four was greeted with a sense of concern at the NPA who fear an amalgamated regulator will become “London-centric.” That, the NPA said, would be “to the detriment of services in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland which currently has its own regulator.”

The Department of Health’s proposals to reduce the number of regulators is based on its belief that bodies with between 100,000 and 200,000 registrants are cost-efficient.

According to its most recent annual report the GPhC has 77,285 registrants while the Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland (PSNI) has 2,852 members.

There has been talk the GPhC might be replaced by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) as pharmacy’s regulator as well as speculation the GPhC could merge with another health regulator. The NPA warned against the latter.

“As the third largest healthcare profession, pharmacy requires a bespoke regulator, in line with the medical and nursing professions,” said Nitin Sodha, chair of the NPA’s policy and practice committee.

“The NPA is also concerned that large scale regulatory bodies may be less accessible to patients and the wider public and may not lend themselves to greater responsiveness.”

Statutory regulation of healthcare professionals costs about £200 million each year to operate according to the Centre for Health Service Economics and Organisation.