Fitness to Practise defence barristers, Kings View Chambers, explain the GPhC’s initial enquiries process and what a pharmacist should do when they are under investigation.
What is GPhC fitness to practise?
To remain on the General Pharmaceutical Council’s (GPhC) register, pharmacy professionals must be “fit to practise”. The GPhC defines fitness to practise as pharmacy professionals:
“having 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.”
The GPhC will investigate concerns which suggest that a pharmacy professional’s fitness to
practise may be impaired. A pharmacy professional’s fitness to practise can be impaired for a number of reasons, including misconduct, lack of competence, not having the necessary
knowledge of English, ill-health or a conviction or caution for a criminal offence.
What is initial assessment?
An “initial assessment” is the first stage in the GPhC’s fitness to practise concerns process and can be broken down into five parts,
- Receipt of the concern
- Assessment of whether the concern is within the GPhC’s remit to investigate
- Initial enquiries
- Initial assessment test
As this suggests, this involves the GPhC’s gathering of information. According to the GPhC, these enquiries will be “targeted and proportionate” and will be “limited to what is necessary to make a decision”.
There is a range of things the GPhC will look at and investigate including, but not limited to:
- The impact of the concern
- Evidence of insight and remediation
- Whether the matter appears to be part of a wider pattern of concern
- Whether the pharmacy professional has any history of fitness to practise concerns
- The likelihood of the behaviour being repeated
- Any relevant contextual matters
- Whether the concern suggests a pharmacy professional has failed to meet any relevant published professional standards or guidance
It is also worth noting that the GPhC is likely to speak to your employer, and initial enquiry investigations can take between three and nine months from the point the concern was first raised.
Initial assessment test
There are a number of outcomes at the conclusion of the initial enquiries. The GPhC will apply a threshold test to determine whether a pharmacy professional’s fitness to practise may be currently impaired.
Concerns which do not suggest that a pharmacy professional’s fitness to practise is currently impaired will be closed. Where there is doubt about whether to open an investigation or not, we will favour opening an investigation.
Outcomes at the conclusion of the initial enquiries are:
- Open an investigation
- Conclude the concern with no further action
- Conclude the concern by sharing intelligence with our inspectorate
- Conclude the concern with informal guidance
- Agree a voluntary agreement with the pharmacy professional
What you should consider when notified of a GPhC investigation
Pharmacists and other pharmacy professionals should carefully consider their position and approach when they receive notification from the GPhC that they are the subject of a fitness to practise investigation.
The GPhC recommends that pharmacists and other pharmacy professionals “seek advice about the investigation” from, amongst others, legal professionals. This is important for a number of reasons, including:
- It will assist you with considering options and the correct strategy at an early stage;
- The investigation will be long, legalistic and based on statutory rules that are important to understand and follow;
- The GPhC will likely contact you at various points during the investigation. Legal advice and representation will assist you with timely and appropriate engagement with the GPhC that could lead to the conclusion of the investigation at the initial enquiries stage;
- Whilst Pharmacists and other pharmacy professionals can continue to work during an initial enquiries’ investigation, the GPhC can, at any point, apply for interim steps to prevent you from working. With legal advice, this can be robustly resisted and responded to; and
- If the matter is referred to the full fitness to practise hearing, legal advice is highly recommended.
Kings View Barristers
With over 30 years combined experience, Kings View Chambers have established itself as one of the best when it comes to fitness to practise defence. We fully understand that fitness to practise defence is not merely about processes and procedures. We also understand that we are working with people who are anxious and worried about what investigations might mean for them, their professions and the reputations.
We are proud to be rated ‘excellent’ by our clients. Our commitment to client care is genuine in both seeking the very best outcomes for our clients, but also ensuring we do what we can to support them through the process.
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