The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) is the regulatory body for pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and pharmacy premises.
The GPhC is responsible for ensuring that pharmacy professionals follow the professional standards we set and that they comply with the laws relating to medicines and poisons. The GPhC also has standards for pharmacy premises.
The GPhC only considers concerns about fitness to practise. Fitness to practise refers to the skills, knowledge, character and health a pharmacy professional must have to do their job safely and effectively. This should not be confused with being fit to work.
All pharmacy professionals have to abide by the law, as well as the standards of conduct, ethics and performance, which is a range of professional standards that the GPhC publish. A pharmacy professional’s fitness to practise can be impaired (negatively affected) for a number of reasons that include misconduct, a lack of competence, ill-health and through having been convicted of a criminal offence.
Examples of things you might report to the GPhC include:
- Dispensing errors
- Sexual assault
- Pharmacy professionals working under the influence of drink or drugs
The GPhC will not usually consider an allegation which is more than 5 years old, unless it is necessary to do so for protection of the public or otherwise in the public interest. The following concerns will also not be considered as they are outside the remit of the GPhC:
- claims of compensation
- concerns about health professionals who are not registered with the GPhC
- employment issues e.g. hours of work, employment contracts
- non-medicinal products, e.g. faulty hairsprays etc
- contractual issues e.g. hours of opening, charges for private prescriptions
- minor customer service issues
If you are not sure whether or not your concern can be investigated by the GPhC, contact our Customer Service Team on 0203 713 8000 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you want an apology or explanation you should first contact the pharmacy where the incident you are concerned about occurred. Please note that the GPhC cannot force anyone to give an apology.
Most concerns reported about pharmacy professionals can be settled locally and more quickly by the pharmacy professional’s employers.
If you want to report a concern about the provision of an NHS service from a pharmacy, you should contact your local Primary Care Organisation, which might be your local CCG, Scottish NHS board or Welsh Health board.
The pharmacy or NHS hospital where you received your medication will have its own complaints procedures. Please contact them for details. You can find details of the NHS complaints procedure at the NHS website www.nhs.uk
The GPhC has an online form on which you can report your concern.
Please include as much detail as possible with your concern and let us know what, if any, action you have already taken about your concern. Please also provide all evidence such as packaging, prescriptions and receipts relating to the incident - you can upload documents with the form, such as images or word documents.
If you require any help completing the form, call the Customer Service Team on 0203 713 8000, or email them at email@example.com and we will be happy to help.
The GPhC is committed to ensuring that we communicate with people, whether in person, in writing or on the telephone as effectively as we can. Therefore, we should be aware whether someone has particular communication difficulties and needs and consider what changes and adjustments we should to make to best meet them. Making a reasonable adjustment means establishing a better method of communication, which differs from our usual practice, so that the person we are dealing with is not disadvantaged by our normal methods of communication. For example, this might involve using larger print on letters, or corresponding through a carer or other designated individual.
Please inform us on the Reporting a concern form or call the Customer Service Team on 0203 713 8000 or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss any communication difficulties you may have and what change or adjustment you require. We will seek to ensure your needs are met.
We will review your completed form to determine if the information you have provided is sufficient to form the basis of an allegation that a pharmacy professional’s fitness to practise is impaired. It is therefore important to include as much detail of your concern at the outset so that any decision we make is well-informed.
If your concern does not call into question a pharmacy professional’s fitness to practise then we will write to you explaining why the GPhC cannot deal with your concern and may direct you to another organisation that might be able to assist you.
If your concern is a matter that the GPhC can deal with then we will write to you to confirm that we are investigating it. A case will be opened and a case worker will be assigned. They will investigate the concern, drawing upon the specialist expertise of inspectors as necessary.
You will be informed within 5 days of receipt of your concern whether we will be able to investigate the matter further.
The GPhC’s investigation process has a number of stages:
A copy of your Reporting a Concern form may be sent to the pharmacy professional and/or the owner of the pharmacy and they will be asked to give us their comments. Personal information will be removed from the form before it is supplied to any third party.
We may contact you and make arrangements to discuss your concern fully with you to obtain any further information or evidence and, if necessary, a witness statement.
Where necessary an inspector will arrange a visit to the pharmacy and make a point of giving advice and recommendations to the pharmacy professional concerned.
When we complete our investigation we will review the available evidence and decide on the appropriate action to take. The GPhC reviews every case against a set of threshold criteria that we use to decide whether the case should be referred to the Investigating Committee. We will tell you whether or not your concern is being referred to the Investigating Committee and we will explain the reasons for this.
The Investigating Committee
The Investigating Committee will consider a report and associated evidence (which will include information provided by you) and any submissions made by the pharmacy professional. It is a private committee which means that neither the pharmacy professional nor any witnesses attend.
The Investigating Committee will decide whether to:
- inform the pharmacy professional that it will take no further action on this occasion, but may consider the current concern if further concerns are reported against the same pharmacy professional;
- write a letter of advice to the pharmacy professional;
- issue a warning to the pharmacy professional;
- agree written undertakings from the pharmacy professional if the concern relates to the pharmacy professional’s health or performance; or
- refer the case to the GPhC’s Fitness to Practise Committee.
The Investigating Committee will only refer a case to the Fitness to Practise Committee if it thinks it is likely that the Fitness to Practise Committee will decide that the pharmacy professional’s fitness to practise is impaired.
The Fitness to Practise Committee
If the case is referred to the Fitness to Practise Committee, a formal hearing will be held and you may be asked to attend and read out your witness statement and answer questions at that hearing. The Fitness to Practise Committee will consider the evidence available and decide whether or not the pharmacy professional’s fitness to practise is impaired. More information about attending hearings is available in the GPhC’s Guidance for Witnesses.
If the pharmacy professional’s fitness to practise is found to be impaired the Fitness to Practise Committee will decide whether a sanction should be imposed. The Fitness to Practise Committee may:
- take no further action;
- issue a warning;
- impose conditions on a pharmacy professional’s practice (often in the form of restrictions on their practice);
- suspend the pharmacy professional; or
- remove their name from the register.
The amount of time it takes to investigate your concern depends on how complicated it is. However, in the majority of cases, our aim is to notify you of the decision whether to refer the matter to the Investigating Committee within 6 months from the date on which we received your concern.
The GPhC will aim to update you every 2 months on the progress of your case.
If your concern is referred to the Fitness to Practise Committee then we will write to you setting out the timeframes involved.
We will keep you informed of any action we are taking and provide you with a clear explanation for our decisions. If you are not happy with the way we have investigated your concern, please write to the case worker assigned to investigate the case. If you are still unhappy, contact the Customer Service Team on 0203 713 8000, or email them at email@example.com, or fill in our online form.