More transparency is needed about where General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) fees are spent if pharmacists are to be asked to pay more, pharmacy representatives have said.

Earlier this 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 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’ of fee increases

The Guild of Healthcare Pharmacists’ (GHP) Council told 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.

More transparency needed

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.

‘Yet another burden’ for pharmacies

A spokesperson for the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies said: ‘Everyone is feeling the cost-of-living crisis and have to cut their cloth accordingly, this should be the case for our regulator too.

‘This is yet another burden for already stretched pharmacies particularly since pharmacies cannot pass their increased costs on the patients.’

Do GPhC fees represent value for money?

Gareth Jones, Director of Corporate Affairs at the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) said that even though the higher fees wouldn’t come into force immediately, they were an ‘unwanted extra cost for pharmacies’ already under pressure.

‘Pharmacy contractors and regulated pharmacy staff are entitled to question whether GPhC is working as hard as they themselves are to deliver value for money’, he added.

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.