This site is intended for Healthcare Professionals only

GPhC meets majority of PSA standards but fitness-to-practise concerns persist


GPhC meets majority of PSA standards but fitness-to-practise concerns persist

By Neil Trainis

The General Pharmaceutical Council met 17 of the Professional Standards Authority’s 18 standards for good regulation in 2022-23 according to its latest report, although concerns persist over the ability of pharmacy’s regulator to deal with fitness-to-practise cases in a timely fashion.

The PSA, which regularly reviews the performance of all nine healthcare regulators, found in its 2022-23 report that the GPhC achieved maximum marks in five of the six areas assessed, including standards, general standards, guidance and standards, education and training and registration.

However, the GPhC met four of the five standards under fitness-to-practise, the only area where it failed to achieve maximum marks. Although it addressed the PSA’s concerns over the transparency and clarity of its assessment and investigation procedures, the GPhC did not improve the timeliness with which it completes cases – the fifth successive year it had failed to meet the PSA’s standard for timeliness when it came to fitness-to-practise.

The PSA said it had written to the health secretary Stephen Barclay and the chair of the Health and Social Care Committee Steve Brine to raise its concerns and promised to “closely monitor the progress of the GPhC’s work to improve its timeliness in fitness-to-practise.”

Although there was an improvement in timeliness from the final investigating committee decision to the final fitness-to-practise committee (FTPC) decision or disposal of the case, there was “no material change in timeliness” from referral to final FTPC decision or disposal of the case. And the PSA noted there was a “significant deterioration in timeliness” from the referral stage to the final investigating committee decision.

The GPhC, which published its five-year fitness-to-practise strategy in 2021 in an attempt to change the way it manages concerns about pharmacy professionals, has struggled to fulfil all the PSA’s fitness-to-practise standards in recent years – in its 2021-22 report, the PSA reported it had met two of the five standards.

The PSA said that despite progress made by the GPhC, it had “not seen evidence that timeliness has improved this year and it continues to be a source of concern to stakeholders.” The PSA's latest report showed a steady increase in the number of open cases that are between 52 weeks and 103 weeks old. In 2017-18, there were 105 cases but that increased to 250 in 2022-23.

“The data also shows that the GPhC has an increasing number of older cases, despite its efforts to clear the backlog of its oldest caseloads,” the PSA said.

GPhC chief executive Duncan Rudkin said “there is still work to do in regard to fitness-to-practise” and insisted it was “an absolute priority for everyone at the General Pharmaceutical Council to resolve” those cases “in a timely way.”

That was imperative, he said, “to protect the public through responding to the concerns of the public and patients, to ensure fairness and transparency to registrants, and to meet the PSA’s standards of good regulation.”

Insisting fitness-to-practise was “a key strand of our strategic commitment to deliver effective, consistent and fair regulation,” Rudkin said: “We remain confident in our ability to take swift, effective action where risk of harm is elevated.

“The PSA are satisfied that we continue to apply promptly for interim orders once we receive information indicating the need for one. We are assured that the issues relating to timeliness do not represent a risk to patient and public safety.”

Rudkin said the GPhC had put in place “a comprehensive action plan to deliver improvements” in its fitness-to-practise work and suggested its latest mark, which was an improvement on its 2021-22 result, “was a result of a sustained programme of work” at the GPhC. Rudkin also suggested the PSA recognised “that embedding change takes time.”

Copy Link copy link button