The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) has set out proposals to collect more data about the sources of fitness-to-practise (FTP) concerns surrounding pharmacists from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds, in an effort “to deal with any bias that we discover”.
The plans come as part of a consultation on how the GPhC will manage future FTP concerns about pharmacy professionals.
In the consultation document, which opened on 27 October 2020, the regulator says it is looking to improve its “understanding of why a disproportionately high number of FTP concerns are raised about BAME professionals — as well as the context in which concerns are raised”.
It noted that in 2019/2020, 55% of the concerns it received were from members of the public, 17% came from other healthcare professionals and 7% were from employers.
“We are considering collecting more data about the sources of concerns, to help us take the appropriate action to deal with any bias that we discover,” the consultation said.
The consultation also proposes working with other organisations to “learn and adopt” best practice for addressing disproportionate representation, both when concerns are raised and throughout the FTP process.
The GPhC said it will use its data to “find trends and factors that often appear in concerns”, and share these findings with employers and other regulators “to help prevent issues occurring or happening again”.
Data from the regulator has previously shown that Asian and black pharmacists are overrepresented in the number of FTP concerns raised.
In July 2020, it announced that it would trial a process by which data on ethnicity and/or race would be redacted from documents seen by FTP investigating committees. The trial is due to run until March 2021.
Elsy Gomez Campos, president of the UK Black Pharmacist Association, welcomed the consultation, but said that “there are things that could have been done from the beginning”.
“For example, when a referral has been found to be unjustified, [the regulator] could have gone back and found out the reasons why that person has been referred. The GPhC could also ask past registrants that have been unnecessarily referred to FTP their opinion, to better understand motivations behind referrals,” she said.
“It’s good that they are addressing this, but I would advise them to look at their own practice; what they have done so far. They may have the answers: in terms of the composition of the panels, in terms of the process, and in terms of how they manage referrals that don’t meet the criteria.”
In the consultation document, the regulator also says it wants to “move away from a process which can be adversarial and slow”, and instead “take quick action to protect patients when that is needed”.
The GPhC would like to develop a “learning culture that allows pharmacy professionals to deal with any concerns and go back to practising in appropriate circumstances”.
The consultation closes on 22 January 2021.