The Professional Standards Authority (PSA) has raised concerns over the General Pharmaceutical Council’s handling of its fitness-to-practise (FtP) process as the pharmacy regulator has managed to meet only two out of five good regulation standards in a performance review.

However, in the annual review published on Oct 30, the PSA said the pharmacy regulator did meet 15 out of 18 standards.

The watchdog, which oversees 10 organisations that regulate health and care professionals in the UK, has also acknowledged that the GPhC has implemented improvements to address the concerns it raised during the previous year’s review about its FtP process.

“We saw improvements in the level of detail and reasoning in investigating committee decisions. However, the remaining work was not implemented in time for us to assess it as part of this review.

“Therefore, our concerns about timeliness, customer service and the transparency and fairness of a number of fitness to practise processes remain and we concluded that the GPhC has not met Standards 15, 16 and 18 of the Standards of Good Regulation.”

The PSA said it saw evidence of improvements in investigating committee decisions, so it no longer has significant concerns in this area.

Commenting on the FtP concerns, the PSA said: “The GPhC has continued its work to address the concerns we reported last year about timeliness, customer service, reasoning in investigating committee decisions and the transparency and fairness of a number of fitness to practise processes.

“We saw evidence of improvements in investigating committee decisions, so no longer have significant concerns in this area. However, due to the timing of most of the other work in the GPhC’s action plan, and the period covered by this report, we have not yet seen the impact of the measures put in place to address our other concerns.

In a statement on their website, the GPhC highlighted that the report covers the period between March 1 2019 and February 28 2020, which meant it left out GPhC’s regulatory response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The GPhC has also started a consultation on how it deals with fitness to practise concerns. Chief executive Duncan Rudkin said: “We welcome the constructive feedback from the PSA. We are as committed as ever to improving as an organisation, so we can best support the needs of patients, the public and registrants.

“The action plan established in response to the previous review has resulted in improvements to our processes, as identified by the PSA in its report. We continue to build on these improvements in line with our action plan and regularly evaluate our progress.

“Our strategy about how we will manage concerns about pharmacy professionals in the future, which we launched this week, provides an opportunity for all stakeholders to share their views on how we can best achieve our aim of delivering a fitness to practise process that is more proportionate, person-centred and effective.”

The performance review has taken into account GPhC’s work with registered pharmacies for the first time.

Fitness to Practice process must be fair: RPS

Whilst welcoming GPhC’s update that it will be consulting on ways to improve its fitness to practice processes, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) has asked the pharmacy regulator “to ensure fitness to practice processes are fair and do not discriminate against any registrants involved”.

RPS president Sandra Gidley said: “The regulator’s drive to improve its understanding of FtP proceedings is welcome, especially its promised exploration of why a disproportionate number of cases are from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities.

“It’s been known for some time that BAME pharmacists are overrepresented in FtP cases, and the focus on this aspect of the process has been a long time coming.

“Members have raised concerns with us about the current process. To maintain the confidence of the profession, bias and discrimination must be rooted out and addressed to ensure those undergoing proceedings are not disadvantaged in any way.

“It’s positive to see the GPhC commit to analysing its data on these cases to ensure consistent and fair regulation, but prompt action and change are needed. We are also keen to see that cases of racism and discrimination are taken with the utmost seriousness and the appropriate support given to all parties involved.”

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