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Influx of public complaints slowing down GPhC’s fitness to practise casework


Influx of public complaints slowing down GPhC’s fitness to practise casework

The GPhC’s latest report indicates continued poor performance against its targets for resolving fitness to practise cases in a timely manner, with high numbers of concerns raised by the public frustrating the regulator’s ability to deal with its existing backlog.

In its performance report for the first quarter of 2023-24, which is included in council papers prepared for its September 14 meeting, the regulator says: “Council will be aware from previous reports that because of the existing size, age and complexity of the existing open caseload it will take time for these cases to make their way through to closure, at whatever stage of the FtP process.

“Added to this is the continuing trend in high numbers of concerns received which has an impact on the timeliness for all stages.

“Whilst working within this challenging context, this quarter saw a reduction in productivity in relation to initial assessment.”

A total of 1,277 new concerns were raised with the GPhC in Q1, which it described as the highest number over the last 12 months “by some margin”. There was a particular rise in concerns raised by members of the public, with the regulator explaining that this reflects the trends of an increasingly pressurised pharmacy workforce “coupled with limited resources and pharmacist shortages” as well as medicine supply issues.

“This has resulted in concerns being raised with us as the regulator, even if they do not always amount to fitness to practise issues, or significant systems failures,” said the GPhC.

The report points to reduced productivity in the earlier stages of the FtP process, with 846 concerns triaged compared to 1,311 in the previous quarter: “This has created an increase in the number of open cases at initial assessment, the highest it has ever been (701).”

Despite the rising number of open cases, the GPhC reported increased productivity and timeliness at resolving cases brought to the FtP committee (FtPC), with the “highest number of cases… closed at FtPC in over a year [15]… this is in line with the wider strategy to progress our older cases to a resolution”.

One factor impacting FtP casework productivity is staff capacity, with three roles on the FtP case officer team vacant during Q1, although the regulator expects these to be filled in Q2.

The report cites “an underlying theme… around capacity to deliver our regulatory responsibilities well whilst delivering on an ambitious agenda” that is affecting the regulator’s performance on a number of fronts. Factors like increased staff absence are mentioned in the report, although it does not draw a direct causal link between this and success against performance metrics.

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