The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) has received a clean bill of health in its annual performance review from the oversight regulator, the Professional Standards Authority (PSA), for the first time.
All standards were met by the regulator in the report for 2015–2016 and the review welcomed progress that had been made in handling fitness to practise cases.
The PSA, which reviews the work of the regulators of health and care professionals, had initially raised concerns about the time taken to handle fitness to practise cases and whether decisions on whether to proceed to hearings were fair and transparent.
Figures had shown an apparent decline in how quickly cases were being dealt with, which the GPhC explained was down to a focus on clearing old cases.
The PSA also looked closely at the addition of a proportionality clause to the ‘realistic prospect’ test for referring cases to fitness to practise hearings. It had raised concerns with the GPhC that this would result in more lenient outcomes, damage public confidence and not take into account the wider public interest.
But between February 2016 when the new guidance was introduced and the end of May 2016, the GPhC had closed only one case where the realistic prospect test had been met, which the PSA said suggested the criteria were being applied fairly.
Duncan Rudkin, chief executive of the GPhC, says they are encouraged that their hard work to improve efficiency and effectiveness as a regulator has been recognised.
“This recognition provides assurance to both patients and the public, and those we regulate,” he says.
David Reissner, partner at Charles Russell Speechlys LLP and expert in pharmacy law, described the review as a “qualified clean bill of health”.
“I would say there was a slightly grudging acceptance that the standards were being met rather than a pat on the back,” he adds.