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Fitness to practise

Record number of complaints to regulator for the second quarter in a row

The General Pharmaceutical Council received 765 fitness-to-practise complaints between October and December 2019.

The number of fitness-to-practise complaints raised with the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) has hit a record high for the second quarter in a row.

Figures released as part of council papers, published on 11 February 2019, show there were 765 complaints brought to the GPhC between October and December 2019.

The latest figure is an 8% increase on the previous record high of 710 cases, which were submitted in the three months between July and September 2019.

Overall, there has been a 15% rise in fitness-to-practise complaints being handled by the regulator since the start of the 2019/2020 financial year.

The increase in concerns being brought to the GPhC has reduced the number of cases that have been ‘triaged’ within five working days from 82.3% in July to September 2019 to 67.8% in the final three months of 2019.

In the council meeting papers, the regulator said the drop in the time taken to triage cases should be considered against the fact they were dealing with “the highest ever number of concerns”.

The Pharmacist Defence Association (PDA) said that the increase in complaints tallies with “similar increases in [the PDA’s] caseloads”.

Mark Pitt, director of defence services at the PDA, told The Pharmaceutical Journal: “The reasons behind these increases are complex and multifactorial, but we are seeing a rising number of complaints relating to both NHS and private prescribing practices.

“The PDA strongly believes that pharmacists are well placed to support patients using their skills as prescribers, but we are seeing instances where pharmacists are being failed by the working environment, including lack of support/induction, unrealistic/improper expectations of the role and poor clinical supervision and training.”

He added that the PDA has expanded its specialist pharmacist team “to prepare for the level of complaints that we anticipate will continue to rise and which relate to primary care and prescribing issues”.

Commenting on the increasing number of complaints, a spokesperson for the GPhC said: “We are collating this data and work is currently ongoing in regard to the categorisation of concerns raised.”

Discussing the previous record high in July to September 2019, the GPhC said in its November 2019 board papers that it would be “paying close attention to see whether this increase is a return to our previous trajectory or a result of high-profile issues increasing public awareness”.

A fitness-to-practise report published by the GPhC in July 2019 said there had been a 15% year-on-year increase in the number of complaints it received in 2018/2019 compared with the previous year, and that it was making changes “to better understand possible links between types of concern and increases in number”.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2020.20207708

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