Glossary of terms

We recognise that our fitness to practise process may be unfamiliar to you. This resource provides definitions of commonly used terms.

Our glossary of terms contains definitions of words used throughout our fitness to practise process. It’s not a complete list of all the terms you may come across but it aims to increase your understanding of the wider process.


At any point if a committee (investigating or fitness to practise) decides not to continue with a hearing this is called an adjournment. When the hearing resumes it will be before the same panel of people coming together.


An allegation is a claim that a pharmacy professional has done something wrong, which suggests that they don’t have the skills, knowledge, character or health to do their job safely and effectively. The allegation may relate to their behaviour, professional performance, adverse physical or mental health, or having a criminal conviction.

Case officer

A case officer is a member of our staff who investigates and manages the concern. They’re often your main point of contact once an investigation is underway.

Clinical adviser

The clinical adviser is a qualified medical professional who advises the investigating committee or fitness to practise committee on a pharmacy professional’s health-related issues. Clinical advisers are independent of the committees and don’t take part in decision making.


A concern is information about a pharmacy professional that suggests there is a risk to patient safety or our standards are not being met. Concerns can be raised by anyone including members of the public, patients and employers. Find out more about reporting concerns and the types of concerns we deal with. 

Direct referral

We may refer a concern to a fitness to practise committee in certain circumstances, without referring it to the investigating committee. We do this if it’s in the public interest for the case to be considered urgently.

Fitness to practise

A pharmacy professional is fit to practise when they:

  • have the skills, knowledge, character and health necessary to do their job safely and effectively
  • act professionally and meet the principles of good practice set out in our
  • various standards, guidance and advice

 Fitness to Practise Committee

The Fitness to Practise Committee is a panel of three people who hold a hearing to consider whether a pharmacy professional’s fitness to practise is impaired. It usually considers cases referred to it by the Investigating Committee.

The Fitness to Practise Committee has to decide:

  • whether the allegation(s) raised in the concern took place
  • whether the pharmacy professional’s practice is affected
  • what outcome is appropriate and proportionate in the circumstance

The Fitness to Practise Committee operates, and makes decisions, independently. We appoint members to the committee and oversee its performance.


If a case is referred to the Fitness to Practise Committee, there will usually be a hearing. The hearing is held by a panel of three people: a chair, a pharmacy professional and a lay member (someone who is not a pharmacy professional). Other people may also be at the hearing, including a legal adviser, a clinical adviser, our staff, witnesses, the pharmacy professional that has had a concern raised about them and any representatives they have.

In most cases, hearings will be held in public. This means that members of the public are allowed to attend and observe. On occasion, it will be appropriate for all or part of a hearing to be held in private.


A pharmacy professional’s fitness to practise may be impaired if there are concerns about their ability to practise safely and effectively. A pharmacy professional’s fitness to practise might also be affected if their behaviour has damaged public trust or confidence in the wider pharmacy profession. This may mean they should not practise at all, or that they should be restricted in what they’re allowed to do.

When making a decision on impairment, the Fitness to Practise Committee must decide whether the pharmacy professional’s fitness to practise is currently (at the time of the decision) impaired, rather than whether it was at the time the incident occurred.


This is when a pharmacy professional can show they’ve learned from their mistakes, that they understand what they did wrong and won’t repeat these mistakes.

Investigating Committee

Once we finish an investigation, and if we think a concern meets the threshold criteria, we usually refer it to an Investigating Committee meeting. The committee operates independently from us when making decisions. We appoint and oversee the performance of the committee.

Legal adviser

The legal adviser advises the Investigating Committee or Fitness to Practise Committee about the law.  If there is a possibility of an error of law being made, the legal adviser must intervene. They must also make sure committee meetings and hearings follow the law and our rules. Legal advisers are independent of the committees and mustn’t take part in decision making.

Medical assessors

We instruct medical assessors to carry out a medical assessment of the pharmacy professional under investigation and provide us with an independent medical report. The purpose of the report is to provide evidence about a pharmacy professional’s health condition, including whether it’s being appropriately managed by the pharmacy professional. The report also provides an expert opinion on any risks that the condition may present to the pharmacy professional, patients and the public.


This is where a pharmacy professional’s behaviour falls short of the standards expected. What they did or failed to do may result in an investigation and potential action to suspend their practise.


The Fitness to Practise Committee will reach an outcome (often referred to as a sanction) once it has decided whether the pharmacy professional’s fitness to practise is affected. There are a number of outcomes that a panel can decide on, including putting restrictions on a pharmacy professional’s practise, or suspending or removing them from the register.

Types of outcomes

1. Advice

This is given to the pharmacy professional to make sure they address any specific areas so they meet the relevant professional standards. 

2. Warning

A public record on a pharmacy professional’s registration, noting that some aspect of their past practice or behaviour was unacceptable and they shouldn’t repeat it. A warning remains on a pharmacy professional’s registration for one year.

3. Conditions

These are set by the Fitness to Practise Committee to address a pharmacy professional’s shortcomings in their practice to prevent any risk to the public. When imposed they apply immediately and are in place for a specific time (up to three years). They may include restrictions on a pharmacy professional’s practice or practising under supervision or undergoing retraining. 

4. Undertakings

An agreement between us and a pharmacy professional about their future practice. The pharmacy professional will continue to practise, but with restrictions in place. 

5. Interim order

An urgent action that either suspends a pharmacy professional from practising or restricts their practice while a fitness to practise investigation is being carried out. The maximum period an interim order can be imposed for is 18 months. 

6. Suspension

A restriction imposed by the Fitness to Practise Committee that prevents a pharmacy professional from practising for a period of time. The maximum suspension is for 12 months.  

7. Removal

The pharmacy professional is removed from the register and unable to practise. They can only apply to come back onto the register after five years.


When the chair of a committee decides that a hearing needs to be delayed and shouldn’t go ahead on the original date it was scheduled. If this happens, we’ll rearrange the hearing as soon as possible.


An outcome that is no more serious than it needs to be to achieve its aims. The Investigating Committee and Fitness to Practise Committee should make sure their decisions are proportionate to the severity of the allegation made.


We publish information throughout the fitness to practise process when it’s lawful, proportionate, in the public interest to do so and our own legislation allows us to. This includes publishing outcomes on our website and the online register.

Real prospect test

The ‘real prospect test’ involves the Investigating Committee asking two questions to help decide whether a concern is likely to be proved right if it went to a Fitness to Practise Committee. In the first part of the test, the Investigating Committee must decide whether there’s a real prospect (that is, a real possibility) of the facts being proved by the Fitness to Practise Committee. The second part involves deciding whether the facts, if they were proved, could show that the pharmacy professional’s fitness to practise is currently impaired.

Pharmacy professional 

A pharmacy professional is a pharmacist or pharmacy technician who is registered with us. We also refer to them as a registrant.


The registrar is our most senior member of staff and has overall responsibility for the investigation of cases. This is currently our chief executive. Our legislation allows them to identify registrar delegates to act on their behalf.


Evidence of steps that a pharmacy professional has identified or taken to put right the concern with their practice.


This is when someone who has been removed from the register by a Fitness to Practise Committee wants to be put back on to the register. They must apply to the registrar to do this.


A pharmacy professional must tell us if there is a change to their fitness to practise declaration that they made as part of their application or renewal process. We may also require pharmacy professionals to complete a ‘something to declare’ form. They must do this within seven days of their circumstances changing. Read about fitness to practise declarations for pharmacists.


The standards for registered pharmacy professionals and pharmacies set out the requirements to deliver safe and effective pharmacy care. There are nine standards that every pharmacy professional is responsible for meeting. 

Threshold criteria

The threshold criteria are a list of things we need to consider when deciding whether a case should be referred to the investigating committee or if another outcome is appropriate. The criteria helps us to make sure that we take a fair and consistent approach when deciding what should happen at the end of our investigation. 

Voluntary agreement

A voluntary agreement is an arrangement between us and a pharmacy professional. It allows the pharmacy professional to continue to practise but with some conditions in place to make sure they remain safe to practise, and that any health condition is properly managed. 

Voluntary removal

If a pharmacy professional no longer needs or wants to be registered with us, they can apply to have their details removed from the register. This is called ‘voluntary removal’. Find out more about voluntary removals.