How concerns came to us in 2019/20
What is fitness to practise?
Fitness to practise is when someone has the skills, knowledge, character and health to do their job safely and effectively. A pharmacy professional may not be fit to practise for a number of reasons, for example if:
- their behaviour is putting patients at risk
- they are practising in an unsafe way, or
- their health may be affecting their ability to make safe judgements about their patients
Dealing effectively with fitness to practise concerns is at the heart of our commitment to protecting patients and the public, and maintaining public confidence in pharmacists and pharmacy technicians.
If you are concerned that a pharmacist or pharmacy technician registered with us is not fit to practise, you can report your concern to us.
You can find out more about how we deal with fitness to practice concerns on our website.
How we deal with concerns
When we receive a concern about someone’s fitness to practise we check whether they are on our register and assess whether the concern should have a full investigation. This first check helps us decide what should happen next. The concern may be closed at this point because it is not within our powers to deal with it. When this is the case, we will point people towards other regulators when we can.
If we can take a concern further, we will start an investigation. This will usually be led by a case worker or an inspector. Following the investigation, we may decide to:
- take no further action
- issue a letter that includes guidance about the professional’s future practice
- enter into a voluntary agreement with the registrant to manage the concern
- recommend that the evidence is considered by an investigating committee, or
- with the most serious concerns, refer it directly to the fitness to practise committee
Many concerns are closed at this first stage, often with guidance which tells the pharmacy professional involved what they must learn from the concerns raised. Only the most serious concerns are referred to the investigating committee or reach the fitness to practise committee.
The investigating committee (IC), which meets in private, can decide to:
- take no action
- agree ‘undertakings’ with a registrant (undertakings are promises by the registrant on things they will or will not do in the future, and may include restrictions on their practice or behaviour or the commitment to undergo supervision or retraining)
- issue a letter of advice
- issue a warning, or
- refer the case to a fitness to practise committee for a hearing
The fitness to practise committee (FtPC) is a panel which operates independently of the GPhC, and is usually made up of three members.
The FtPC, which usually holds hearings in public, decides if a pharmacy professional is fit to practise.
If it finds that they are not fit to practise, it can:
- issue a warning
- set conditions, or undertakings, that place restrictions for a period of up to three years on how the registrant can practise
- suspend them from the register for a period of up to 12 months, or
- remove them from the register
If we receive a concern where a pharmacy professional’s behaviour or practice presents a serious continuing risk to patient safety, or if they have a health condition which means that they are a risk to themselves or the public, we can apply to the fitness to practise committee for an ‘interim order’. Interim orders allow for a pharmacy professional’s registration to be suspended, or made subject to conditions, while we carry out our investigation.