The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) has seen a 15% year-on-year increase in the number of complaints it has received about pharmacists on the register.
According to the GPhC’s latest annual fitness to practise report, published on 10 July 2019, the regulator received 2,674 complaints in 2018/2019 — 345 more than in 2017/2018.
The GPhC was unable to give reasons for the increase in concerns raised “because there are many potential causes”, but noted that it plans to “make changes to the case categories we use, to better understand possible links between types of concern and increases in number”.
The report said that more complaints had been received from employers, other healthcare professionals and GPhC inspectors in 2018/2019, but members of the public still accounted for the majority of complaints, filing 54% of concerns.
The GPhC also highlighted a “notable change in the outcomes of cases over the last year”.
The proportion of cases closed with guidance after an investigation, rather than being referred on to an investigating committee or a fitness-to-practise panel, increased by 19 percentage points — from 26% of all the concerns closed the earlier stage in 2017/2018 to 45% in 2018/2019.
According to the annual report, investigations are led by an inspector or specialist case worker who can close an investigation “with guidance which tells the pharmacy professional involved what they must learn from the concerns raised”.
“Only the most serious cases are referred to either the investigating committee or the fitness-to-practise committee,” the report added.
The GPhC said this increase in the number of cases closed at an earlier stage is a result of “revised threshold criteria”, which are used “to decide whether to refer a case to the investigating committee”.
The report also noted that the number of concerns closed at the triage stage, when a complaint is first filed, has increased by five percentage points from 34% of all concerns raised in 2017/2018 to 39% in 2018/2019.