Fitness to practise committee

The fitness to practise committee (FtPC) hears cases where a pharmacy professional's fitness to practise is alleged to be impaired.

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: fitness to practise hearings and sanctions guidance (also available in Welsh- cliciwch yma i ddarllen y ddogfen hon yn y Gymraeg)

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, a committee will hold a hearing 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 set out the procedure before, during and after the hearing.

See the fitness to practise committee members.

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What a fitness to practise committee can do

If a committee decides a pharmacy professional’s fitness to practise is impaired, it can:

  • take no action
  • 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)
  • issue a warning
  • impose conditions 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 in Good decision making: fitness to practise hearings and sanctions guidance and more about the conditions a committee can impose in Good decision making - conditions bank January 2016.

How does a fitness to practise committee 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’.

See what the FtPC considers at each stage of the decision-making process.

Explaining the decision in public

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.

What happens next?

After the FtPC has made a decision about a pharmacy professionals’ fitness to practise, and explained this in a determination, any sanctions will come in to force as set out in the determination.

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.

The FtPC may also impose ‘interim measures’ 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 and can cover the 28 day appeal period. 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.

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 fitness to practise committee 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 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.

Restoration hearings

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.

Read the guidance- Restoration to the register: Guidance for applicants and committees

If you are the pharmacy professional

If a concern about your fitness to practise is referred to the fitness to practise committee, we will write to you to explain the details. You can find out more in our factsheet Advice and support for pharmacy professionals involved in the FtP process.

You may also find it helpful to read Working in pharmacy when not on the register, depending on your sanction.

If you raised a concern or are giving evidence

You may be required to attend a fitness to practise committee hearing to read out your witness statement (if you have given one) and answer questions at the hearing. 

You can find out more about what’s involved in our guide to attending a hearing.

We will write to you to tell you about the outcome of the case, even if you were not involved in the hearing.