Regulator reports 50% increase in early closures of fitness-to-practise cases

General Pharmaceutical Council papers show that 69 cases were closed before the investigating committee stage in January to March 2023, compared with 46 cases in the previous quarter.
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The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) completed 50% more of its fitness-to-practise (FtP) cases before they reached the investigating committee stage in the final quarter of 2022/2023, compared with the previous quarter of that financial year.

Papers prepared for the GPhC council meeting, which is due to be held on 8 June 2023, show that 69 cases were closed before the investigating committee stage in January to March 2023, compared with 46 cases in October to December 2022, the previous financial quarter.

Complaints are passed to the regulator’s investigating committee if allegations are found to have met certain threshold criteria, including whether referring it to the committee is in the public interest, after an initial investigation.

In October 2022, it emerged that the GPhC had failed to meet standards relating to FtP set by its own regulator, the Professional Standards Authority (PSA), for four years in a row.

In its most recent annual review, published on 30 September 2022, the PSA said that the pharmacy regulator had failed to meet the three FtP standards relating to the transparency, fairness and timeliness of its FtP process.

In the review, the PSA acknowledged that the GPhC had completed a “wide-ranging” action plan to address concerns over its FtP process raised previously by the PSA, but said it had “yet to see” evidence that these concerns had been “fully addressed”.

In November 2022, the GPhC said it had received record numbers of FtP complaints, with 1,118 received between July and September 2022 — the highest ever quarterly figure.

“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,” GPhC council papers said at the time.

In its latest papers, ahead of the meeting on 8 June 2023, the GPhC said it had seen “some positive improvements in productivity and timeliness in the earlier stages of the FtP process”, citing both the increase in investigating committee stage closures, and “just over 19%” in the number of cases triaged in the last quarter.

However, the papers added: “Despite the welcomed improvements this quarter, the open caseload continues to increase at investigation and get older.

“This is because there were more new cases coming in than cases closed or referred. As a result, at the end of quarter four, 56% of all cases at investigation stage are over the age of 12 months old.”

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, June 2023, Vol 310, No 7974;310(7974)::DOI:10.1211/PJ.2023.1.187986

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