The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) has agreed to increase its entry and renewal fees from 1 July 2019 despite widespread disagreement from respondents to its consultation on the matter.
The regulator agreed to raise annual pharmacist registration fees by £7 to £257, pharmacy technician fees by £3 to £121 and pharmacy premises fees by £21 to £262 at its council meeting yesterday (7 March).
A consultation on the proposed fees, held between November 2018 and January 2019, found that 70% of respondents disagreed with the proposed fee increase for pharmacists and 41% disagreed that the GPhC’s proposals were in line with its fees policy.
A spokesperson from the GPhC told The Pharmacist that the purpose of the regulator’s consultations and the reports that follow is to ‘listen to everybody’.
They added: ‘We summarise all the feedback we get so that it can be considered. That is what the discussions at council meetings are about and why the council committed to a review of our costs.’
Two thirds (66%) of over 5,000 respondents to the consultation disagreed with increasing the fee for pharmacy technicians, and half (51%) disagreed with increasing the registered pharmacy fee.
Those who disagreed raised a range of concerns, including that current ‘financial pressure and uncertainty’ from which the GPhC is ‘insulated’ could make the increases ‘challenging to absorb’ for the sector, according to the consultation analysis.
The report added that respondents who agreed with the increases said they were ‘small’ and ‘reasonable’ and that after a four-year fixed rate an increase is ‘expected and in some instances lower than anticipated’.
GPhC chief executive Duncan Rudkin said the council had ‘carefully considered’ the results of the consultation, including respondents’ concerns and ‘the overall economic context’ but had decided that a fee increase was ‘necessary’.
He said: ‘Our role is to protect the public and give them assurance that they will receive safe and effective care when using pharmacy services, and we have to make sure we have the resources necessary to carry out our regulatory functions effectively on their behalf.’
Review of costs and fees
The GPhC announced today it will ‘develop a longer-term financial strategy which includes a comprehensive review of costs and fee structures, as well as an accommodation review’ in the coming year.
One concern raised by respondents in the fees consultation was that there should be more flexible fee options for people working part-time or on parental leave to account for income differences.
Others said ‘the pharmacy sector has challenged itself to do more with less and the GPhC has not done the same’, calling on the regulator to move from its offices in Canary Wharf and reduce costs from information requests by publishing more information.
The GPhC today said that its annual plan for 2019-20 ‘makes clear that it is undertaking a number of measures to improve efficiency and effectiveness’.
The increase in fees is the first since 2015 and despite the rise, fees for pharmacy professionals remain lower than they were in 2011.