Investigating a fitness to practise concern

Our fitness to practise process is there to protect patient safety, to maintain public confidence in pharmacy professionals, and to consider any future risks to patients and the public.

Where we have information which raises concerns about the fitness to practise of a pharmacy professional, we will look to see that they can demonstrate the skills, knowledge, character and health needed to do their job safely and effectively. If the information we receive from a concern or declaration raises concerns about a pharmacy professional’s fitness to practise, we will make enquiries, and might start an investigation.

We may also carry out an investigation if one of our inspectors identifies a concern about a pharmacy professional during a visit to a pharmacy.

We aim to finish an investigation as soon as possible, but usually this is within three to nine months of the concern being raised. In many cases, after an investigation has finished we will write to the pharmacy professional to explain any learning which we feel they should apply to their practice or behaviour from the concern which has been 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.

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Sharing information about a concern

You can find out what information we may make available about concerns in the investigation stage in our publication and disclosure policy.

If appropriate, we share information about concerns with other organisations, such as NHS England, the Care Quality Commission, the Disclosure and Barring Service (in England and Wales) Disclosure Scotland, local NHS organisations or other regulators like the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency.

We have memoranda of understanding which set out how we share information with a range of organisations.

Our referral policy explains how we consider referring cases to the Disclosure and Barring Service (in England and Wales) and Disclosure Scotland.

What happens during an investigation?

How an investigation is carried out depends on the individual facts of a case.

Usually an investigation will include:

  • speaking to the person who raised the concern and any witnesses
  • speaking to the pharmacy professional involved
  • working closely with GPhC inspectors
  • visiting the registered pharmacy premises where an alleged incident(s) took place

Depending on the nature of the concern, we may need to get witness statements and evidence from patients, members of the public, members of the pharmacy team, employers, other healthcare practitioners, the police or other regulators.

If you are the pharmacy professional

During an investigation, we may:

  • provide you with a copy of the concern raised about you and ask for a response
  • arrange a visit to your pharmacy to obtain evidence, take witness statements and to give you informal advice
  • ask you to undergo an assessment of your understanding of English

If we receive information raising a concern about your health, we may ask:

  • you for further information in relation to your health
  • for information from your treating doctor
  • you to undergo a medical examination

You can find further information on how we identify whether there is an underlying health issue in our policy.

Our factsheet Advice and support for pharmacy professionals involved in the FtP process explains more about the investigation process and what we may ask you to do.

We aim to complete our investigations within three to nine months of receiving a concern, and to update you on the progress of our investigation every two months- although you can contact the person managing the concern at any time.

What happens next?

When we have finished our investigation, we will review all the available evidence and consider what, if any, action to take. All cases are assessed against our threshold criteria which we use to decide whether to refer the case to the investigating committee or fitness to practise committee.

If the concern is not referred to one of our committees, then we will not take any further action. However, if appropriate, we will give you some informal advice as to how you can improve your practice in the future.

We will keep a record that a concern has been received about you and this information may be taken into account if any further concerns are raised about you.

If it is necessary to refer your concern to the investigating committee or the fitness to practise committee, we will tell you this and send you more information about what will happen next.

If you raised a concern

You can find out more about how we deal with concerns and what we may ask you to do as part of our investigation in our in our factsheet, I’ve raised a concern – what happens next?

A GPhC case officer will get in touch with you about the investigation and ask you to make a ‘witness statement’. You can find out more about this in our factsheet, Giving a witness statement

We aim to complete our investigations within three to nine months of receiving the concern, and to update you on the progress of our investigation at least every two months- although you can contact the person managing the concern at any time.

What happens next?

When the investigation has been concluded, we will review all the available evidence and determine what action to take. All cases are assessed against threshold criteria which we use to decide whether to refer the case to the investigating committee or fitness to practise committee

If it is not necessary to refer your concern to one of our committees we will write to you to explain the reasons why and, where appropriate, direct you to other organisations that may be able to help. However, if it is necessary to refer your concern we will tell you.  It is likely that we will need to ask you for more information about what happened.

We may need to ask you to attend a fitness to practise committee hearing to read out your witness statement and answer questions at that hearing. You can find out more about this in our factsheet, Giving evidence at  a hearing

Urgent cases: interim orders

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, quickly while we carry out our investigation.