How concerns came to us in 2018/19
What is fitness to practise?
We describe fitness to practise (FtP) as a person’s suitability to be on our register without restrictions. We are considering how we define fitness to practise in future, as part of our planned review of our strategy in this area.
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
We carefully review and assess every concern we receive. This initial review helps us decide what should happen next. The review may result in a case being closed at this point because it is not within our powers to deal with it. When appropriate, we will tell people about other regulators who may be able to help.
If we can take a case further, we will start an investigation. This will be led by an inspector or a specialist case worker, or – if it is a complicated case – both. Following the investigation, we may decide to:
- take no further action, because we are satisfied that there is no case to answer
- issue a letter containing guidance
- recommend that the evidence is considered by an investigating committee
Many cases are closed at this point, often with guidance which tells the pharmacy professional involved what they must learn from the concerns raised. We keep a copy of this letter on our records. Only the most serious cases are referred to either the investigating committee or 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 about things they will or will not do in the future. They may include restrictions on practice or behaviour, or the commitment to undergo supervision or retraining)
- issue a warning or a ‘letter of advice’, 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:
- give them a warning
- set conditions that limit how they can practise
- suspend or remove them from the register
We may receive a concern where a registrant’s behaviour or practice presents a serious continuing risk to patient safety, or they may have a health condition which means that they are a risk to themselves or the public. In these cases 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.
A fitness to practise committee may impose sanctions. These can include suspending a pharmacy professional or removing them from the register. Sanctions are not about punishing past conduct. Rather, they reflect the interests of the public – either to ensure public safety, to maintain public confidence in the profession, or to maintain proper standards of behaviour.