- 1. Who are the GPhC?
- 2. What is Fitness to Practise according to the GPhC?
- 3. What is the GPhC Fitness to Practise process?
- 4. What sanctions can the GPhC impose?
- 5. What is a “something to declare” declaration?
- 6. What type of GPhC Fitness to Practise concerns will the GPhC Investigate?
- 7. GPhC Fitness to Practise case Studies
- 8. How can we help with a GPhC Fitness to Practise Investigation?
- 9. Ask another question
- Contact us
- Further reading
1. Who are the GPhC?
The General Pharmaceutical Council (“GPhC”) regulates all pharmacy professionals, including pharmacists and pharmacy technicians.
2. What is Fitness to Practise according to the GPhC?
The GPhC defines fitness to practise as a pharmacist being able to demonstrate the skills, knowledge, character and health to conduct their job safely and effectively. This includes adhering to the GPhC’s principles of good practice, including issues arising in a pharmacist’s personal life as well as their professional life. Essentially, fitness to practise relates to a pharmacist’s suitability to be on the GPhC’s register without restrictions. Whatever the nature of the allegation, where a pharmacist or pharmacy technician is facing a fitness to practise investigation, it is essential to obtain the best legal advice and representation as early as possible. It may be that through early intervention, we can stop the GPhC’s investigation from proceeding any further.
Whatever the nature of the allegation, where a pharmacist or pharmacy technician is facing a fitness to practise investigation, it is essential to obtain the best legal advice and representation as early as possible. It may be that through early intervention, we can stop the GPhC’s investigation from proceeding any further.
3. What is the GPhC Fitness to Practise process?
If concerns are raised about a pharmacist’s fitness to practise, the GPhC will first consider if the complaint amounts to a fitness to practise issue. If so, they will conduct an GPhC Fitness to Practise Investigation and then refer the fitness to practise allegations to their Investigating Committee.
At this stage, the pharmacist will have the opportunity of making written representations to the Investigating Committee to put forward their version of events. This is an ideal opportunity to seek to persuade the GPhC that the pharmacist’s fitness to practise is not impaired and that therefore the investigation should go no further.
The GPhC’s Investigating Committee will then make a decision on whether there is a case for the pharmacist to answer. Our GPhC defence solicitors have an excellent track record in writing compelling written representations to persuade the GPhC’s Investigating Committee that there is no case for the pharmacist to answer.
However, if the GPhC’s Investigating Committee decides that there is a case for the pharmacist to answer, they will refer the pharmacist to the GPhC’s Fitness to Practise Committee or the Health Committee for a full fitness to practise hearing.
At a fitness to practise hearing, the GPhC’s Fitness to Practise Committee will hear the evidence presented by both sides and will make factual findings about the allegations. If they find the allegations proven, they will then consider whether the pharmacist’s fitness to practise is impaired. Impairment means concerns about a pharmacy professional’s ability to practise safely and effectively. If so, then they will consider what the most appropriate sanction is.
4. What sanctions can the GPhC impose?
If the GPhC have found that a pharmacy professional’s fitness to practise is impaired, they can impose one of the following sanctions:
- Issue a warning;
- Give the pharmacist advice;
- Impose conditions on the pharmacy professional’s practice for up to 3 years;
- Suspend the pharmacy professional from practising for up to 12 months;
- Remove the pharmacy professional from the Register.
5. What is a “something to declare” declaration?
All pharmacists have to renew their registration and complete a fitness to practise declaration each year. Pharmacists are obliged to notify the GPhC if their fitness to practise is impaired for reasons such as misconduct, lack of competence, ill-health or a criminal conviction. The GPhC also requires pharmacists to complete a ‘something to declare’ form within 7 days if their circumstances change during the course of the year. We have experience of assisting pharmacists with making ‘something to declare’ declarations to the GPhC about their fitness to
We have experience of assisting pharmacists with making ‘something to declare’ declarations to the GPhC about their fitness to practise. We can manage the flow of information and paint the situation in the best light possible, to seek to minimise the impact on the pharmacist.
6. What type of GPhC Fitness to Practise concerns will the GPhC Investigate?
Each case is different, but the GPhC will certainly investigate concerns raised that fall into the following categories. This list is by no means exhaustive:
- A criminal conviction/caution – particularly those that are drug related;
- Allegations of dishonesty;
- Improper sexual conduct;
- Substance misuse;
7. GPhC Fitness to Practise case Studies
Below are brief examples of the types of GPhC fitness to practise cases where our experienced GPhC lawyers have represented GPhC registrants:
Criminal Caution for supplying cannabis
We represented a client who had admitted giving a prescription-only drug to a colleague without a prescription and had received a criminal caution from the police for supplying cannabis. The pharmacist was squarely at risk of being removed from the register, but due to our mitigation, the Fitness to Practise Committee imposed a 3-month suspension.
Dispensing error of a controlled drug
Our client had made a dispensing error in relation to a controlled drug. The patient unfortunately subsequently died, although the death was not directly attributable to the overdose. The pharmacist also faced an allegation of dishonesty that he had not reported the incident appropriately. Following our compelling written representations, the GPhC’s Investigating Committee offered the pharmacist a warning.
Fraudulent medicines use reviews
We represented a pharmacist who had completed a number of medicines use reviews ‘murs’ without seeing the patients, which was alleged to be dishonest. We were able to prepare written representations for the GPhC’s Investigating Committee about the pressure that the pharmacist was under from the pharmacy owners, but combined with an expression of recognition of personal responsibility. The GPhC’s Investigating Committee was persuaded that it was appropriate to issue a warning rather than referring the pharmacist to the GPhC’s Fitness to Practise Committee.
Alcohol dependency and allegations of dishonesty
We represented a pharmacist before the Fitness to Practise Committee regarding health conditions relating to alcohol dependency and misconduct matters which included allegations of dishonesty. The pharmacist avoided being removed and ended up with a suspension. At the subsequent review hearing this was reduced to conditions, to enable the pharmacist the opportunity to return to working as a pharmacist.
Pre-registration exam appeal
We represented a client who had failed the pre-registration exam. We successfully persuaded the GPhC to allow her not to count that sitting and to give her another opportunity to sit the exam. Appeals of this nature are notoriously difficult to win, but our arguments were compelling and therefore were successful.
Registration help following a police caution for theft
Our client had received a police caution for theft prior to qualifying as a pharmacist. We helped the pharmacist to disclose this appropriately on the GPhC’s ‘something to declare’ form and subsequently to answer various questions raised by the GPhC when considering the pharmacist’s application for registration. The GPhC ultimately decided to grant the pharmacist registration, which enabled the pharmacist to commence their practising career.
8. How can we help with a GPhC Fitness to Practise Investigation?
We recognise that there are situations whereby genuine mistakes are made, without it necessarily needing to result in a finding that a pharmacist’s fitness to practise is impaired. It is essential that a pharmacist, at the appropriate time, provides the GPhC with their version of events and their written representations about the concerns that have been raised. This is a critical opportunity to persuade the GPhC that their fitness to practise is not impaired.
Help from an expert GPhC defence lawyer should be obtained before a registrant embarks on this exercise, to ensure that their written representations are appropriately and objectively drafted, to ensure that they are as effective and as persuasive as possible. Written representations that are written by a pharmacist themselves, without objectivity may in our experience damage a pharmacist’s case, particularly if they fail to demonstrate sufficient insight where appropriate.
9. Ask another question
Do you have another question relating to GPhC fitness to practise that hasn’t been covered in our guide? Feel free to ask Richard Nelson LLP’s GPhC fitness to practise solicitors and we’ll endeavour to get back in touch with you as soon as possible.
In the event that you are facing a GPhC fitness to practise investigation or GPhC fitness to practise hearing, our expert defence representation will significantly improve your prospects of obtaining the best possible outcome. Contact our GPhC Lawyers today without delay for a free confidential telephone consultation and we will be happy to help you.
- Pharmacist Lawyers
- How to appeal to the GPhC having failed the Registration Assessment
- A consultation on the GPhC’s draft guidance on the investigation committee meetings and outcomes
- New guidance from the GPhC
- General Pharmaceutical Council’s website