The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) has proposed raising its fees for pharmacists and pharmacy technicians by 7.5% from April 2024, and has invited feedback via an online consultation survey.
The increases would affect fees for the 2024 registration assessment – for which bookings open in February 2024 – as well as registration renewal fees from April 2024.
Fees have been frozen for the last two years in 2022 and 2023. But under the new GPhC proposals, the pharmacist renewal fee would increase by £19, from £257 to £276. Meanwhile, the pharmacy technician renewal fee would increase by £9, from £121 to £130.
Feedback on potential impact
The consultation, which will run until Tuesday 8 August 2023, asks for feedback on the approach to increasing fees equally across all registrant groups, as well as the impact of the proposal on pharmacy staff, pharmacy owners, foundation trainee pharmacists, patients and members of the public, and on groups or individuals sharing protected characteristics.
GPhC chief executive, Duncan Rudkin, said that over last few years the GPhC had been able to avoid raising many of its fees ‘by improving our efficiency and by using our financial reserves to cover any gap between our income and our outgoings’.
But he added: ‘While we are continuing to look for ways to make savings, we now have to consider increasing fees.’
The GPhC ‘appreciates the cost of living is affecting everyone’, he said, but added that the organisation had also experienced an increase in operational costs driven by higher rates of inflation, increasing utility bills and supplier costs.
‘We are proposing a below inflation increase, deferred to 2024, and hope that by proposing this change well in advance we can help those who need to pay fees plan accordingly,’ said Mr Rudkin.
In addition to covering increased costs, GPhC said that the fee increase was needed ‘to make sure we are in a financially stable and sustainable position’ to respond to developments within the pharmacy sector that would require a regulatory response, including:
- The growth of online pharmacies and services
- More clinical services delivered in pharmacies and by pharmacy professionals
- New technologies and scientific advances
- Patient expectations of ‘person-centred’ care
- More integration of health and social care, leading to pharmacy professionals working in a wider variety of settings
The GPhC said that this would mean ‘significant changes in the scope and complexity’ of its work, such as being able to adapt quickly, use intelligence more, and ‘be anticipatory’ in its approach to regulation.
What about multi-year fee cycles?
The GPhC had previously floated the idea of introducing a multi-year fee cycle, which would involve setting fees over a longer period of time, allowing the organisation and its registrants to plan ahead and spread costs.
But in its consultation documents, the GPhC said ‘now is not the right time to adopt a multi-year approach’, putting this down to a considerable change in the economic conditions since the proposal was originally made.
However, the organisation said that it still believes that that a multi-year fee cycle approach ‘remains the right course of action to take in the longer term’ and would continue to explore the option in future fee reviews.
What about international applicants?
Under the 2015 rules, the GPhC charged applicants from the EEA and Switzerland a ‘scrutiny fee’ to cover the cost of recognising their qualification as equivalent to the UK qualification.
But the GPhC stopped charging this fee following the UK’s exit from the EU, and the new fee proposals do not currently include a ‘scrutiny fee’.
Instead, the GPhC anticipates that the government will introduce a new framework for the recognition of professional qualifications from the EEA and Switzerland later this year, and will propose amendments to its new Rules to reintroduce scrutiny fees ‘where appropriate’.
What about fees for accredited training?
The GPhC also said that it would aim to increase costs to training providers, to cover the cost of accrediting training courses and qualifications.
A version of this story was originally published by our sister publication The Pharmacist.