More transparency is needed about where General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) fees are spent if pharmacy professionals are to be asked to pay more, pharmacy representatives have said.
Last week, the GPhC proposed raising its fees by 7.5% – meaning that from April 2024, the pharmacist registration renewal fee would increase by £19, from £257 to £276. The pharmacy technician renewal fee would increase by £9, from £121 to £130.
The regulator has invited feedback via a consultation, but the announcement has already been met with dismayed reactions from individuals and organisations within the sector.
‘Overwhelming message of rejection’
The Guild of Healthcare Pharmacists’ (GHP) Council told Hospital Pharmacy Europe‘s sister publication The Pharmacist that after posting an informal poll to its followers on Twitter, it had received ‘an overwhelming message of rejection of these rises’.
‘We would encourage the GPhC to consider this very carefully in terms of cost of living and the markedly sub-inflation pay offer our members will be receiving this year,’ it said.
And it strongly encouraged ‘precise and explicit justification of these proposed increases in fees, specifically for individual registrants’.
The GHP said that it would be publishing its consultation response in due course and would welcome the opportunity to discuss the matter with the GPhC directly.
The equality impact
Both the equality impact and the potential negative effect on the already strained workforce were also raised as issues.
Commenting on Twitter and referring to the widespread recruitment and retention issues in the NHS, Samantha Quaye, Head of School (Pharmacy), NHS England, said: ‘This hike in fees may render some unable to afford to continue work within the profession at a time when we desperately need to increase the healthcare workforce.’
In a separate comment on social media, Ms Quaye also urged pharmacists and pharmacy technicians to respond to the consultation to underline the need for equality in the system.
Passionate about the fee increase proposal being reviewed based on equality impact, she highlighted that those working part time and those on parental leave are being charged the full-rate GPhC fees despite earning less. These people are ‘more likely to be female, a carer or living with a disability,’ she added.
More transparency needed over fees
Paul Day, director of the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) told The Pharmacist that while the 7.5% fee increase ‘may be less than inflation’, it was ‘more than most pharmacists’ pay has increased’.
‘If pharmacists are asked to give a larger share of their income to the regulator, they will want to see what value derives from that funding,’ he added.
‘The major spending choices made by the GPhC will also need to be transparently seen as appropriate’, he said, raising questions over the ‘highly expensive location’ where the regulator’s office is situated.
Mr Day also said that pharmacists would ‘want to be satisfied that the relative contribution of other categories of registrant is balanced correctly’.
But he acknowledged that the regulator in Northern Ireland (PSNI) was introducing some easier payment options following requests from the PDA.
He said that the PDA would issue further statements on the issue in due course.
GPhC cites increased costs and changing sector
When announcing the proposed fee increase, GPhC chief executive, Duncan Rudkin said that the GPhC ‘appreciate the cost of living is affecting everyone’, but said that the organisation had also experienced an increase in operational costs driven by higher rates of inflation, increasing utility bills and supplier costs.
And the regulator also said that the fee increase was needed to make sure it was ‘in a financially stable and sustainable position’ to respond to developments within the pharmacy sector that would require a regulatory response.
GPhC also highlighted information about its budget and spending published within the consultation documents.
A version of this story was published by our sister publication The Pharmacist.