The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) received 1,118 new fitness-to-practise (FtP) concerns between July and September 2022 — the highest ever quarterly number, according to its council papers published on 4 November 2022.
This was 30% higher than the 854 complaints received in the previous quarter — which was previously the highest number of concerns raised in the past year, the regulator said.
The figures, which cover Great Britain, are due to be discussed at a council meeting on 10 November 2022.
“Our data show an increase this quarter in concerns about customer service and pharmacy premises,” the council papers said.
“These concerns tend to be about delays in medicines being dispensed, lack of stock and unanticipated pharmacy closures and could reflect the significant pressures being faced by community pharmacy.”
“We haven’t seen a proportionate increase in concerns referred for investigation,” they added.
Frequently asked questions about the FtP process, published on the regulator’s website, state that the GPhC will not investigate concerns that relate to “contract issues, for example hours of opening”.
The council papers also said the regulator’s FtP team had triaged a record 965 new concerns in the second quarter of the 2021/2022 financial year, but that timeliness of the triaging process had fallen because of the “exceptionally high volumes”.
In September 2022, the Professional Standards Authority (PSA), an independent regulator that sets standards for all UK health regulators, found that it had failed to meet three out of its five FtP standards related to timeliness, transparency and fairness for the fourth year in a row.
In its report, the PSA acknowledged that the GPhC had completed a “wide-ranging” action plan it had developed to address concerns raised in 2018/2019 and had launched its new FtP strategy.
However, the PSA said that it was yet to see evidence that its concerns had been fully addressed.
Despite the record number of FtP concerns, the GPhC council papers said it was making good progress in improving its FtP systems, with improvements showing in four of the six categories it uses to measure performance.
According to the council papers, these improvements include a significant increase overall in the number of cases closed within the various stages of the FtP process from the previous quarter, up from 39 to 68, and more than double the number of cases having been closed before they reached an investigating committee compared with last quarter, at 52.