The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) fees will increase by 7.5% from April 2024, it has confirmed, following agreement from its council earlier this month.
The regulator confirmed it is planning to introduce regular incremental increases to fees going forwards.
It also defended its decision to have headquarters in London’s costly Canary Wharf, following calls from members that the organisation should seek to cut its running costs.
The 7.5% increase will mean that from April 2024, the pharmacist renewal fee will increase by £19 from £257 to £276, the pharmacy technician renewal fee will increase by £9 from £121 to £130, and the pharmacy premises renewal fee will increase by £27 from £365 to £392.
Fees for individual registrants have not increased since 2019, and those for premises since 2021.
And GPhC chief executive Duncan Rudkin said in a statement this week that he knew that the increase would ‘come as unwelcome news’ to registrants, acknowledging that ‘these are challenging times’.
‘But to be effective in our role of protecting the public we need to make sure the fees we charge cover the cost of regulation going forward,’ he added.
Mr Rudkin said that while the GPhC was able to freeze its fees in previous years ‘through cost-saving measures’, it was ‘subject to the same inflationary pressures and financial challenges as those we regulate’.
He added: ‘We are working in a changing environment and have to adapt accordingly and regulate in a world where pharmacy is evolving at pace.
‘This will continue to lead to significant changes in the scope and complexity of our work, on top of the major projects we are already undertaking such as reforms to initial education and training, post-registration assurance of practice, and the development of new standards following legislative change.
‘In taking this difficult decision, we are ensuring we can carry out our statutory duties and continue to ensure patients and the public receive safe and effective pharmacy care and have trust in pharmacy, now and in the future.’
According to notes from the GPhC council meeting on 9 November 2023, many respondents to the GPhC’s consultation on the proposed fee increases specifically criticised the location of the regulator’s headquarters in Canary Wharf, suggesting that money could be saved by basing the organisation in a less costly location.
But the council defended its decision, noting that ‘several sites in and outside of London were considered’ and the final site was ‘selected against strict criteria including supporting the delivery of our Vision 2030, providing economic savings and minimising disruption of services to the public and registrants’.
It added that its external review had ‘demonstrated the competitiveness of the rent in Canary Wharf which remains one of the cheapest centrally accessible London locations’, in part due to a VAT exemption that applies to the GPhC headquarters.
The council also said that the move had halved its office footprint, saved £800,000 annually and had not been funded by registrant fees.
The notes from the council meeting also revealed that some of the 7,129 responses to the fees consultation had suggested that the proposed increases were ‘unfair on those who might work part time, low income or are on parental leave’.
But the council noted that in its fee review in 2021, it had explored the possibility of bringing in differential fees for individual fee registrants, which it said was strongly opposed by respondents.
In 2021, the decision was made to keep a single fee structure as ‘it would take extra time, resources and costs to manage a differential fees system; the extra costs would need to be met by registrants, including those who do not pay differential fees’, according to the council’s findings.
‘On balance and in the interest of fairness and consistency we believe it is best to keep the present flat-fee structure for individual registrants,’ the council said in 2021 – a rationale that it said still ‘remains sound in our view’.