The regulator is looking at how its fitness-to-practise (FTP) procedure impacts the mental health of pharmacists who are under scrutiny.
The move by the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) is part of a forthcoming review of the disciplinary procedure to ensure that the system is both “proportionate” and “restorative”.
Details of the review were revealed following a freedom of information (FOI) request by The Pharmaceutical Journal on the effect of FTP procedures on pharmacists’ mental health, after which it emerged that 13 registrants who went through the GPhC FTP procedure revealed they faced “additional stress, anxiety or impact on their mental health, dignity or honour” during the process.
According to the GPhC, the 13 cases — based on the responses to a voluntary survey — is less than 1% of the total number of pharmacy professionals whose cases were opened and closed between September 2016 and December 2018.
In its response to the FOI, a statement from the GPhC said: “We recognise the stress that engaging with the [FTP] process can place on all of those involved and the distress it can cause. This of course can have an impact on a pharmacy professional’s mental health but it can also mean that those with mental health issues do not feel comfortable in engaging in the process in the first place.
“We need to understand the impact on those involved in the process and what we can do to manage and mitigate this impact. We need to ensure our processes are proportionate and do not add to this already difficult situation. We should be supportive where it is right to be so.”
The response confirmed that a review of how FTP affects mental health would be included in the GPhC’s draft annual plan for 2019/2020, which was considered and agreed at its council meeting on 7 February 2019.
A “comprehensive review” of the FTP process — which would consider any “unintended impact” on everybody involved in an investigation — will be launched by the regulator in April 2019 and run until June 2019, according to details in the draft annual plan presented to the council.
The draft plan commits the regulator to take a future FTP approach designed to help registrants manage “health issues” and support them back to work “where appropriate” It also commits the regulator to only begin proceedings “where there is a risk to the ongoing health of the registrant’s or public safety”.