The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) is proposing to increase premises registration fees by 39% from October while simultaneously freezing individual registration fees, it has announced.
The regulator today (7 January) launched a consultation on the proposals to increase fees by £103 – from £262 to £365 – for pharmacies joining the register or renewing registration from October 2020 onwards.
Individual fees for pharmacists and pharmacy technicians will not be increased this year, although the GPhC ‘will be exploring further changes’ to all its fees, it said.
In March, the regulator announced that it was increasing annual pharmacy premises fees by £21 to £262, pharmacist registration fees by £7 to £257 and pharmacy technician fees by £3 to £121 from 1 July 2019 – despite widespread disagreement from respondents to its consultation on the matter.
However, this increase in fees was the first since 2015.
The consultation document says that current fee levels are ‘not sustainable’ because they ‘have not kept pace with the costs’ of regulating pharmacies.
The consultation, which closes on 31 March, seeks views on whether pharmacy owners should cover the £103 shortfall between the fees currently paid by pharmacies and the ‘actual costs’ of regulating each pharmacy based on 2018/19 figures, the GPhC said.
The GPhC is primarily funded through fees from registered pharmacies, pharmacists and pharmacy technicians, as well as a small income from education providers’ fees, it added.
GPhC chief Duncan Rudkin said: ‘We recognise the financial pressures that pharmacy owners are under and any uplift in fees is only proposed when necessary.
‘We are proposing this change now because we need a robust and sustainable financial framework with fees that reflect the true cost of regulation.’
No ‘significant’ financial impact
An impact assessment carried out by consultancy firm EY and commissioned by the GPhC found that the planned fee increase of £103 ‘[does] not appear to have a significant impact on financial performance, as the fee would remain less than 1% of the average surplus/deficit’ for pharmacy businesses.
However, the report added that the sector is experiencing ‘notable fragility’, with 52% of organisations in deficit across the small sample (30 businesses) analysed.
It said: ‘While registration fee rises may not be a major driver of financial performance, the fragility of the system means care should be taken when considering the extent of fee rises, and that a policy where differential fees are considered for segments of the market based on their ability to absorb them may be required.’
The GPhC said it will ‘consider whether the fees for pharmacy premises can be more effectively structured to take account of the growing complexity and diversity of pharmacy provision’, for example based on prescription volumes or the range of services offered.
‘Wider review’ of fees
The consultation also ‘marks the first phase of a wider review’ that will see the regulator explore ‘further changes’ to all its fees, the GPhC said.
A longer-term fees strategy will consider implementing longer fixed-term fees and flexible fee options – for example, for those on parental leave – as well as a fee scale for premises based on their type, turnover or other size measures and direct charges for ‘additional regulatory activities’ such as re-inspections, the regulator added.
It said: ‘As part of our long-term financial strategy we are looking at ways to reduce our costs, become more efficient, use our reserves more effectively, and make sure that those being regulated are paying an appropriate amount in fees, as well as exploring other possible sources of income.’