Duncan Rudkin, Chief Executive of the General Pharmaceutical Council, said:
“Today’s response sets out the next steps for the UK and Devolved Governments in reforming regulation to promote the professionalism of health and social care professionals and to further improve the protection of patients.
“We welcome the commitment to bring forward changes to the legislation setting out the fitness to practise processes for the health professional regulators. Patients and the public have the right to expect that concerns about any health or social care professional will be addressed quickly, consistently and fairly. It is therefore important that these legislative changes happen at the same time for all the regulators and at the earliest possible opportunity.
“We strongly support the move to give us and the other regulators greater autonomy to set more of our own operating procedures in fitness to practise. This will enable us to be more responsive to external developments, take a proportionate, person-centred approach in all cases, and quickly improve the effectiveness of our processes, which will benefit both patients and health professionals. It will also enable us to spend more of our resources on supporting the professionalism of pharmacists and pharmacy technicians. These proposals are very much in line with the GPhC’s strategic approach and are to be welcomed.
“We agree that this greater autonomy must be accompanied by greater accountability. There needs to be openness and transparency across all our processes to maintain the confidence of the public and health professionals. We welcome the plans to increase our accountability to the UK and Devolved legislatures in the countries in which we regulate.
“In the response, the UK and Devolved Governments outline their intention to move forward with proposals to change the current structure of our Council to a unitary board, comprising executive and non-executive directors.
“We expressed our concerns about the proposed move to unitary boards in our response to the consultation, including whether this would allow appropriate ‘board’-level input from both of the professions and in each of the three countries which we regulate. We remain unconvinced that it will improve the governance of the health professional regulators.
“We believe the current structure for our Council, in which we have equal numbers of professional and lay members, is working very effectively and brings significant benefits, and crucially commands the confidence of the pharmacy professions. We want to make sure these benefits are not lost and any changes to governance arrangements are made in a way that mitigates the potential difficulties this could create, and will look to work with government to try to achieve this.
Number of regulators
“The original consultation also explored whether there should be a reduction in the overall number of regulators, and how they should be configured. We agree with the government response that more work is needed before bringing a proposal forward for consultation, to understand the rationale for making this type of change and if the potential benefits would outweigh the challenges this would present.
“There is much to consider in today’s response. We will discuss it in detail with our Council and work closely with the UK and Devolved Governments and all other stakeholders as this work is taken forward, to help make sure all the changes achieve their aims of supporting the professionalism of health professionals and strengthening protection for patients. We also need to consider what these changes mean for us in terms of our role in regulating registered pharmacies, as well as pharmacy professionals.
“While we wait for legislative change, we will continue to make improvements to how we work within our current powers, including by developing our future strategy for fitness to practise”.