The Fitness to Practise Committee (FtPC) hears cases where a pharmacy professional's fitness to practise is alleged to be impaired.
FtPC meetings are usually held in public. If the committee decides the pharmacy professional is not fit to practise it can give them a warning, set conditions that limit how they can practise, or it can suspend them or remove them from the register.
How does the FtPC operate?
The FtPC operates, and makes decisions, independently of the GPhC. It is accountable for the decisions which it makes, and must take account of guidance produced by the GPhC, including Good decision making: Investigations and threshold criteria guidance [PDF 671 KB] (also available in Welsh: Gwneud penderfyniadau da: Canllaw ar gyfer ymchwiliadau a meini prawf trothwy [PDF 737 KB])
If a case is referred to the committee, there will usually be a hearing. The hearing is held by a panel of three people (a chair, a registrant member and a lay member). Other people may also be at the hearing, including a legal adviser, a medical adviser, GPhC staff, any witnesses, the registrant and any representatives they have. FtP panels hear evidence and decide whether a pharmacy professional’s fitness to practise is impaired.
In most cases, hearings will be held in public. A hearing may be held completely or partly in private if the committee is satisfied that the interests of the person concerned or the third party in maintaining their privacy outweigh the public interest in holding the hearing, or part of the hearing, in public.
If the hearing is about the health of the registrant, or relates to an interim order, the committee must hold it in private, unless it is satisfied that the interests of the pharmacy professional concerned, or of a third party, in maintaining their privacy are outweighed by the public interest.
The General Pharmaceutical Council Fitness to Practise Rules Order of Council 2010 [PDF 145 KB] set out the procedure before, during and after the hearing.
What action can the FtPC take?
If a committee decides a pharmacy professional’s fitness to practise is impaired, it can:
- issue a warning
- agree ‘undertakings’ (promises by the pharmacy professional on things they will or will not do in the future, which are listed in the undertakings bank [PDF 250 KB])
- impose conditions [PDF 265 KB] on the pharmacy professional’s practice
- suspend the pharmacy professional from practising, or
- remove the pharmacy professional from the register in the most serious cases.
You can find out more about the sanctions the committee can impose within the following documents:
- Good decision making: fitness to practise hearings and sanctions guidance [PDF 965 KB]
- and the equivalent Welsh version: Gwneud penderfyniadau da: Gwrandawiadau addasrwydd ymarfer a chanllaw sancsiynau [PDF 853 KB]
Read about the conditions a committee can impose in: Good decision making - conditions bank January 2016 [PDF 265 KB]
How does the FtPC make its decision?
During a hearing the committee follows a three-stage process before it reaches a decision on whether to impose a sanction, and if so, which sanction to impose. Once the committee has heard the evidence, it must decide:
- whether the facts alleged have been found proved
- whether the pharmacy professional’s fitness to practise is impaired
- whether any action should be taken, by way of a sanction, against the pharmacy professional’s registration or not.
In a hearing, the GPhC has to prove the facts alleged against a pharmacy professional. The standard of proof which applies is the ‘balance of probabilities'. This means that the committee will find an alleged fact ‘proved’ if it decides, after hearing the evidence, that it is more likely than not to have happened. This is not the same as the standard of proof in a criminal court, which is ‘so that you are sure’.
Explaining the decision
Once a committee has made a decision, it will give its ‘determination’. The determination is the formal statement by the committee announcing its decision and explaining the reasons for it. The amount of detail a committee gives in a determination depends on the nature and complexity of the case. In every case, the reasons should be adequate so that the decision can be easily understood by the pharmacy professional, the GPhC, the complainant and any other interested party. It should be clear why a particular decision has been made.
You can see determinations from recent cases in our determinations search. The determination will also be added to the person’s register entry. You can find out what information we may make available about concerns in the investigation stage in our publication and disclosure policy [PDF 645 KB]. Also available in Welsh: Polisi cyhoeddi a datgelu CFfC [PDF 671 KB]
What happens next?
The pharmacy professional may want to challenge the decision by lodging an appeal at the high court. The pharmacy professional has 28 days to make an appeal against the decision. Any sanctions will come into force after that 28 day appeal period, or after any appeal has been determined.
The FtPC may also impose ‘interim measures’ for that 28 day appeal period if it is satisfied that they are necessary to protect the public, or are otherwise in the public interest or in the interests of the pharmacy professional.
Any interim measures will take effect immediately. If the pharmacy professional appeals against the decision, they will stay in force until that appeal is decided.
Once the hearing has ended, there may be a review hearing on another date. This depends on the sanction and circumstances of the case.
You can find out more about sanctions, interim measures and review hearings in Good decision making: fitness to practise hearings and sanctions guidance [PDF 965 KB]; and its equivalent Welsh version: Gwneud penderfyniadau da: Gwrandawiadau addasrwydd ymarfer a chanllaw sancsiynau [853 KB]
The GPhC must tell the Professional Standards Authority (PSA), who oversee organisations that register and regulate people working in health and social care, about all final fitness to practise decisions. The PSA may refer a fitness to practise case to the High Court of Justice in England and Wales, or the Court of Session in Scotland, if they believe that a decision taken by the FtPC has been unduly lenient and does not protect the public.
The PSA must decide to do this within 40 days of the hearing (the 40 days is in addition to the pharmacy professional’s appeal period), and confirm their decision to refer a case to the court by writing to the pharmacy professional involved and to the GPhC.
We have published guidance that explains how to apply for restoration to the register after being removed by a fitness to practise committee. It also includes information about restoration hearings, how decisions are made and the outcomes which committees can decide on.
Information for pharmacy professionals
If a concern about their fitness to practise is referred to the FtPC, we will write to the professional to explain the process to be followed. Our factsheet Advice and support for pharmacy professionals involved in the FtP process, [PDF 473 KB], provides more details.
Depending on the sanction type, our guidance Working in pharmacy when not on the register [PDF 400 KB], may also be helpful.
Information for the person who reported the concern
The person wo reported the concern may be required to attend a FtPC hearing as a witness, either to read out a statement (if asked to prepare one) and/or to give evidence by answering questions.
We will keep them informed of the outcomes of the case once the hearing takes place, even if not required to attend.