A consultation on the GPhC’s draft guidance on the investigation committee meetings and outcomes
The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) is the regulator for pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and registered pharmacies in Great Britain. The investigating committee (IC) makes decisions independently about the way forward in a case.
The main purpose of this guidance is to bring together the relevant parts of the current guidance into one document. The guidance has been rewritten in order for it to be more consistent with other decision making documents. More emphasis has been placed on IC’s role and there is refreshed guidance on the mitigating and aggravating factors. All these changes have been introduced in order to make the decision making process clearer and easier to follow.
The new guidance has been split in to two parts, Part A: The Investigating Committee and Part B: Guidance on Outcome.
Part A: The Investigating Committee
This part of the guidance is about the role of the IC, how it fits into the decision making process and how the IC reach a decision.
If an allegation against a pharmacist meets the threshold criteria the pharmacist is referred to an IC. The IC has the power to take several different steps following the investigation into the allegations.
The steps that are available to the IC include:
- Referring the case to the FTPC;
- Requiring a medical examination;
- The power to inform the registrar that the GPhC should consider bringing criminal proceedings;
- Issuing warnings;
- Agree undertakings with the registrant;
- Give advice to the registrant;
- Case closure/no action.
The IC has the power to consider allegations that occur in both personal and professional life, as in either situation the profession can be brought into disrepute.
The IC must consider the real prospect test before they reach any decision.
The Real Prospect Test
The IC must decide if there is a real prospect of the facts being proven, if so, is there a real prospect the FTPC will find that the registrants fitness to practise is impaired.
If the IC decides that the real prospect test is met then they must refer the case to the FTPC. The IC’s decision is set out in a formal statement which includes the reasons for which they have made the decision.
The IC should consider that the burden of proving the alleged facts is with the council.
Part B: Guidance on the Outcome
This part of the guidance highlights what the IC should consider in light of their investigations before making a final decision.
The panel would need to decide whether the registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired, and not whether it was when the incident occurred.
The relevant factors the panel should take into consideration include:
- Whether the registrant presents a risk to the public;
- Has the registrant’s conduct brought the profession into disrepute;
- Has the integrity of the registrant been brought into question;
- Whether the registrant has breached a fundamental principle of the profession of pharmacy;
- The relevant aggravating and mitigating factors.
Mitigation can be presented in different ways before the panel, such as by providing references and testimonials, or for example evidence of remediation taken by the registrant.
When the IC considers any references or testimonials they take in to consideration whether the author was aware of the allegations whilst providing the testimonial.
The registrant’s behaviour and attitude before, during and after the incident is also important. For example whether the registrant has shown insight and has taken steps after the incident to prevent reoccurrence.
The deadline for responding to this consultation is 11th September 2015; any interested party is encouraged to respond.