Pharmacy regulator to publish ‘diversity data’ around fitness-to-practise cases

The General Pharmaceutical Council has said it will publish diversity data related to fitness-to-practise cases in order to understand and address potential discrimination.

The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) has proposed publishing “diversity data” related to fitness-to-practise cases as part of its equality, diversity and inclusion strategy.

The GPhC’s five-year strategy, which will be discussed at its council meeting on 11 March 2021 ahead of a public consultation, said it aims to “make regulatory decisions which are demonstrably fair, lawful, and so free from discrimination and bias”.

To do this, the GPhC said it will “routinely publish diversity datasets, including diversity data related to fitness to practise cases, to support transparency, visibility and intelligence sharing”.

This data will be used “to identify and monitor any disproportionate impacts on different groups, and to take steps to understand and address potentially discriminatory outcomes, for example, through initiatives such as anonymous decision-making pilots”, the proposals said.

The Pharmaceutical Journal revealed in February 2019 that nearly half of pharmacists suspended or removed from the register following fitness-to-practise investigations over a three-year period were from a black, Asian or minority ethnic background.

The data had been obtained through a request under the Freedom of Information Act and, in March 2019, The Pharmaceutical Journal called for greater transparency around the ethnicity of pharmacists under investigation.

The regulator announced in July 2020 that it would trial redacting information that might identify a pharmacist’s ethnicity from documents seen by fitness-to-practise investigating committees.

Elsy Gomez Campos, president of the UK Black Pharmacist Association, said the GPhC’s proposals to publish diversity data were “too broad” and called for “more clarity of what information they will publicly share”.

“We need to know ethnicity of those being referred, including those being referred where there is no case to answer, [the] theme of reasons for referrals attached to ethnicity and also ethnicity of panel members and case officers,” she said.

“Furthermore, it will be helpful to know what actions the GPhC takes to address inappropriate referrals. Without comprehensive reporting, publishing some of the ethnicity data won’t give us a real picture of GPhC management of fitness-to-practise cases.

“Finally, when reporting, an effort must be made to move from the term BAME [black, Asian and minority ethnic] and instead report on individual ethnicities.”

Sandra Gidley, president of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, also called for the GPhC to “publish additional metrics on the protected characteristics of the cases it is dealing with at every stage, including those triaged and concluded before reaching the Investigating Committee”.

“We would like to see further transparency and detail from the GPhC as to how they are working to remove barriers,” she said.

“These proceedings must be fair and consistent for all. Any form of bias and discrimination must be rooted out and removed, in order to create a fairer approach to equality, diversity and inclusion within our profession.”

In fitness-to-practise reforms published in October 2020, the GPhC said it planned to collect more data about the sources of concerns to understand “why a disproportionately high number” are raised about professionals from a black, Asian or minority ethnic background.

The regulator has said that these reforms and its equality, diversity, and inclusion strategy “are inter-connected, with a clear focus on how we will minimise and deal with the risk of potential biases in our decision-making”.

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, March 2021, Vol 306, No 7947;306(7947)::DOI:10.1211/PJ.2021.1.65484

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