Most complaints made by pharmacy professionals to the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) are about the regulator’s processes, and in particular relate to registration renewal, according to board papers.
The complaints report, contained within the board papers for the GPhC Coucil meeting held on 7 June, shows the number of complaints received in both 2015–2016 and 2016–2017 and the time of year that they were made.
A spokesperson for the GPhC explained: “Complaints about process mainly relate to registration renewal. Most of the complaints came during our peak renewal period.”
Issues raised by the complainants included the collection of renewal fees two months in advance of the expiry of registration, failure to receive notifications about registration renewal and problems with the automated telephone direct debit system for collecting renewal fees.
The papers reveal that the regulator receives far more complaints in the summer (July to September) than at any other time. The volume of complaints received in the second financial quarter (July to September) in both years was approximately twice that received in the first quarter (April to June). The number of complaints received in quarters three and four were also much lower than in quarter two.
The GPhC says that analysis of the types of complaints suggests “that this quarterly variance is linked to the annual cycle of registration renewals”. The rise in complaints during the second quarter was most marked for complaints related to “the way in which payments are made and what complainants feel is the inefficiency of the overall process”, it explains.
While the overall number of complaints fell between 2015–2016 and 2016–2017 by 15.3% from 189 to 160, complaints about GPhC processes increased by 23% from 66 to 81, complaints about outcome of a decision by 22% from 27 to 33, and complaints about staff conduct by 64% from 11 to 18.
The biggest fall was seen in complaints about fees; there were 36 complaints about fees in 2015–2016 but none in 2016–2017. There were also no complaints regarding equality and diversity received in 2016–2017.
The high volume of complaints in 2015–2016 about fees is likely to be related to the fact that, following an extended period where fees for individual registrants were either reduced or remained the same, the GPhC Council agreed to increase registration renewal fees for pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and pharmacy premises from 15 October 2015.
The annual renewal fee for pharmacists rose by £10 from £240 to £250. The annual renewal fee for pharmacy technicians increased by £10 from £108 to £118 and the annual renewal for pharmacy premises increased £20, from £221 to £241.
The GPhC did not raise fees in 2016–2017 or 2017–2018.