20/05/24

GPhC | General Pharmaceutical Council Investigations

GPhC | General Pharmaceutical Council Investigations
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The General Pharmaceutical Council (‘the GPhC’) is the regulator for pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and pharmacies across the UK. Its primary function is to protect, promote and maintain the health and safety of the public, by ensuring quality and maintenance of standards in pharmacy.

The GPhC investigates complaints concerning pharmacy professionals and pharmacies and will take disciplinary action when considered appropriate.

John Veale of KANGS outlines the activities of the GPhC.

GPhC | Conducting an Investigation

Commencement

An investigation will be commenced if, as a result of findings from an inspection or a report from somebody else, such as a member of the public, a colleague, or a GP there is cause to suspect patient safety or the reputation of pharmacy may be at risk.

Most investigations conclude within twelve months and, during this time, the GPhC may conduct inspections of the pharmacy and discuss the complaint with all concerned, including any witnesses.

Potential Further Action

Following the initial investigation, to determine whether there is sufficient evidence and a compelling reason to make a finding against a pharmacy or professional, the following three parts test will apply:

  • was the incident a risk to public/patient safety; did it undermine trust or confidence in the pharmacy profession; has there been a failure to meet GPhC’s standards; or is the pharmacy professional’s honesty and integrity in question?
  • does the pharmacy professional’s health render that person unable to practise safely or effectively?
  • is there a public interest in pursuing further action?

Where less serious breaches apply, GPhC may simply recommend further training. However, serious cases will be referred to the Investigating Committee.

The Investigating Committee

The Investigating Committee (‘the IC’) operates independently of the GPhC, is accountable for its decisions and must provide reasons for them.

The IC meets in private and comprises of three people, the chair, a pharmacy professional, and a non-pharmacy lay member. A legal adviser will also be present and there may be a clinical adviser to advise on health matters.

The pharmacy professional being investigated will be invited to present a written response to the allegation and any recommendations of the Registrar for dealing with the complaint.
The IC will consider the case and decide whether to take action or refer it to the Fitness to Practise Committee.

If the IC considers the complaint, it may:

  • take no action,
  • provide the pharmacy professional with appropriate advice,
  • issue a warning which is normally published,
  • agree undertakings with the pharmacy professional where it is considered that fitness to practise is affected,
  • obtain legal or clinical advice to consider rescission; cancelling any referral which may have been made to the Fitness to Practise Committee,
  • require a medical examination of the pharmacy professional,
  • tell the Registrar to consider bringing criminal proceedings.

Fitness to Practise Committee

The purpose of the Fitness to Practise Committee (the ‘FPC’) is to decide whether a pharmacy professional is fit to practise.

The FPC will be constituted in the same manner as the IC, as mentioned above, operates independently of the GPhC, and usually holds meetings in public.

However, a hearing must be held in private if it concerns the health of the pharmacy professional or it may lead to an interim order suspending the pharmacy professional from practise pending further investigation.

Following a hearing, at which witnesses or experts may be called, the FPC will be required to determine, on the balance of probabilities, whether:

  • the complaint has been upheld,
  • the pharmacy professional’s fitness to practise is impaired,
  • any sanctions should be imposed.

Where it is decided that a pharmacy professional’s fitness to practise is impaired the FPC can:

  • issue a warning,
  • agree undertakings regulating further conduct,
  • impose conditions on the practice,
  • suspend the professional from practising,
  • strike the professional off the register, thereby preventing any further pharmaceutical activity.

Appeals

An appeal can be made to the High Court within twenty-eight days and any sanctions imposed by the FPC will become operative at the end of that time or after a High Court determination. The FPC may impose interim measures considered necessary to protect the public.

The Professional Standards Authority will be advised of the outcome, and it has the power to appeal to the High Court within forty days if it believes the FPC has in any way acted with undue lenience.

How Can KANGS Help?

We appreciate that any form of Professional investigation, including those conducted by the GPhC, will be highly distressing, as will the fear of any possible adverse consequences involving family, career, reputation, and the potential for criminal prosecution.

The KANGS team regularly guides and, where necessary, defends, clients facing professional investigation of every type and will be delighted to assist you.

If we can be of assistance, our Team would be delighted to hear from you, contact us using the details below:

Tel:       0333 370 4333

Email: info@kangssolicitors.co.uk

We provide initial no obligation discussion at our three offices in London, Birmingham, and Manchester. Alternatively, discussions can be held through live conferencing or telephone.

Hamraj Kang

Hamraj Kang
Senior Partner

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John Veale

John Veale
Partner

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Helen Holder

Helen Holder
Partner

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