Could you play your part in pharmacy regulation by joining a GPhC committee?

13 December 2017

Are you looking to broaden your professional experience? We have a number of opportunities for pharmacists and for lay people to play a key part in the regulation of pharmacy professionals, by becoming a member or chair of the committees that make decisions about concerns raised about registrants and pharmacy premises

We do not have any vacancies for pharmacy technicians at the moment.

Recruitment for committee positions will go live on 29 January 2018, in the Working for us section of our website- follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook for a reminder nearer the time.

Want to find out what’s involved? Yemisi Gibbons, a pharmacist member of the GPhC’s fitness to practise committee, explains what’s involved in her role.

What’s your background and sphere of practice?

I was a community pharmacist for four or five years, and after that I moved into primary care pharmacy. As a practice pharmacist I go into GP surgeries, look at their prescribing and drug budgets and work with them to compare what they do with best practice and rationalise them. I joined the registration appeals committee in 2010 and then the reserve fitness to practise committee (FtPC) list in 2014, before becoming a full FtPC member in June 2015.

“The role has enhanced my skills in decision making and reasoning, which are essential for my primary role.”

What prompted you to apply for the role?

I just happened to see the committee position advertised online, and it seemed like a really good opportunity. I thought some of my skills and experience, such as interviewing, might be transferable, and it looked challenging - I’m always up for a challenge!

In particular, I thought it would give me a chance to work with people from other industries and professions, which has always interested me. But, to be honest, part of it was simple curiosity about the GPhC itself. It had only recently been established, and I remember being fascinated to see how it would work, and how it intended to achieve its aims of ensuring patient safety. It just occurred to me when I saw the advert that the best way to find out would be to join in and become a part of it.

What does a typical day in the life of a panel member look like?

We’ll receive a bundle of papers in advance with all the information on the case. This can sometimes be quite weighty, so I have to make sure I’ve allowed enough time to read and digest them in advance. On the morning of the hearing, I and the rest of the panel (a lay member and a lay chair) will have a quick discussion beforehand, then the hearing will commence. If the chair isn’t legally qualified, we’ll have a legal adviser present to advise us, though they don’t take part in the decision-making.

If it’s a principal hearing, we will hear the GPhC’s case, the registrant’s evidence and any witness statements. We’ll listen to the questioning and cross questioning, and ask questions of our own.

Once all that is done, we will meet in private to decide on the facts of the case first of all. We’ll announce our decision on those, and then we’ll go into private session again to decide on whether the registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired. Once we’ve announced that, if we have found impairment we’ll listen to further submissions, including any mitigating circumstances the registrant may wish to put forward, then we’ll go into private session to decide on the sanction we will impose. The chair writes all this up in a determination which explains the reasons for our decision. These will be read out at the close of the hearing, and published (except in health cases) on the GPhC website.

No two hearings are the same – cases can be about alleged misconduct, deficient professional performance or ill health, and there are many different reasons why such allegations might be made. The process we follow will vary quite a lot depending on whether it’s a principal hearing, an interim order or a review.

What kind of challenges do you encounter? What things go through your mind as you sit on a hearing?

I don’t have a legal background, so it took me a while to feel comfortable with the legislative framework and the case law. You build up your skills in this area over time, and that’s where the training and development, and in particular the attitude of your fellow panellists, is so important.

It’s also a challenge to keep track of the legal arguments on both sides, and to pick out the salient points in what can often be an awful lot of words!

“As the registrant member on a panel that is otherwise lay, it’s down to me to ensure that I get my points across and my voice is heard.”

Above all, it’s a huge sense of responsibility. You can’t help but put yourself in the position of the registrant and think how it would affect you, and about all the years of study and commitment it’s taken them to achieve a status and a livelihood which your decision could potentially, in the worst case scenario, take away. It does weigh on you. I’m very much aware that, as the registrant member on a panel that is otherwise lay, it’s down to me to ensure that I get my points across and my voice is heard, so that my colleagues fully understand the context and the environment within which registrants work.

What would you say to pharmacy professionals who may feel hesitant about applying, maybe because they worry that they don’t have directly relevant experience, or they won’t have the time to do the job?

I would say, don’t worry! I know the appointments committee was careful to draft the required competences for the roles in such a way as to be achievable for as wide a group as possible – it’s absolutely not just for people who have done this type of work before. I really believe there are many pharmacists out there who, if they took a minute to look at the competences and think about their own skills and experience, they would find, like me, that they already have what’s needed; they just have to think how they might translate across to different scenarios.

“The role is stimulating and engaging and no two cases are ever the same; I’m always learning something new.”

I do appreciate it won’t always be easy for busy pharmacists to find the time.  But I know from my pharmacist colleagues here that many employers are really supportive and allow the time off, because they see the wider benefit to the public and to pharmacy but also because they see the development opportunity for their staff. And for those, like me, who are self-employed and appreciate the flexible working that pharmacy can sometimes offer, committee work fits that bill perfectly.

How has being a committee member affected or helped your day-to-day work or pharmacy practice?

It has enhanced my skills in decision making and reasoning, which are essential for my primary role. And, while I always knew this to some extent, it’s certainly reinforced my appreciation of the fact that I am seen as a pharmacist, not just in my clinical work but in how I conduct myself in a professional and private setting.

How has the GPhC supported you in your learning and development as a committee member?

I had lots of excellent and relevant training which is available to all committee members. What’s surprising, though, is how valuable I found the annual performance development review. I was absolutely dreading it but it turned out to be a really positive and worthwhile experience.  But in the end, you do a lot of the learning on the job, and that’s where the other panellists around me have been fantastic.  I’ve worked with some amazingly knowledgeable and helpful people who have really helped me get into the role.

Finally, what do you like about the role?

The role is stimulating and engaging and no two cases are ever the same; I’m always learning something new. I can honestly say it’s given me a greater appreciation for and pride in my profession.

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