'Rise in complaints' partly behind GPhC fee proposals

A “rising number of concerns about registrants” being raised is among the factors that have contributed to the General Pharmaceutical Council’s proposing to increase its entry and yearly renewal fees for 2019-20, the regulator says.

The GPhC has launched a consultation on proposals to increase pharmacists’ fees from £250 to £257, pharmacy technicians’ fees from £118 to 121, and pharmacy premises fees from £241 to £262. The consultation will be open until 24 January 2019.

The GPhC said: “We continue to experience increases in our workload, and we forecast that this will continue. In particular, this includes a rising number of concerns about registrants raised with us by the public and the professions.”

The consultation document says the number of concerns raised about registrants has gone up from 1,889 in 2016-17 to 2,333 in 2017-18 – a rise of 23.5 per cent.

Other workload factors cited by the regulator include a greater number of freedom of information and subject access requests, and more pharmacists seeking to update their register entry to reflect independent prescriber qualifications. The GPhC says there were 3,294 annotated prescribers on its register in Q1 of 2015-16 and 6,770 in Q1 of 2018-19.

While the GPhC says it is “difficult to predict with any certainty how our workload may change in 2019-20,” changes to how pharmacy services are delivered, the impact of Brexit, and shifting public expectations of the regulator will also “have a significant impact on our work and costs.”

The regulator says the proposed fees are “still below the level they would have been if the fees had simply increased each year in line with indicators for inflation”. For example, based on Consumer Price Index and Retail Price Index inflation figures, pharmacists’ 2019 fees would be between £265 and £276 if pegged to inflation, the GPhC says.

GPhC chief: We recognise the impact of fees

GPhC chief executive Duncan Rudkin said: “We know that our fees have an impact on the finances of pharmacy professionals and registered pharmacies. And we recognise that pharmacy professionals and pharmacies are facing increases in their workloads, growing costs and funding challenges. We therefore only propose fee increases when they are necessary.

“Over the last few years we have been able to carry out our regulatory duties without increasing our fees. We have achieved this by sustained efficiency improvements and by using some of the financial reserves we held to cover the gap between our income and our outgoings. But we are continuing to see increases in our workload and costs, which we forecast will continue.

“It takes time for us to consult on, agree and implement new fees, and even longer for the income to be received. That means we need to act now to make sure we have enough funds to carry out our regulatory functions in 2019-20 on behalf of patients and the public while we continue developing our longer-term strategy.

“We want to hear from everyone who has views on the fees we set during the upcoming consultation.”

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