Pharmacy associations have highlighted that the General Pharmaceutical Council’s (GPhC) proposed increase in premises fees has come at a time when the sector is already under serious financial pressure.

Yesterday (7 January), the GPhC launched a consultation on proposals to raise pharmacy premises registration fees by 39% – from £262 to £365 – starting from October.

Individual fees for pharmacists and pharmacy technicians will not be increased this year, but that the consultation ‘marks the first phase of a wider review’ that will see the regulator explore ‘further changes’ to all its fees, the regulator said.

Pharmacy bodies had a mixed response to the news, with the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) firmly opposing the ‘steep’ fee increase for contractors who are ‘already under immense pressure’.

The GPhC said it welcomes responses to the consultation and will publish its response to the feedback received after the consultation has closed in March.

NPA: ‘Cannot possibly support such a steep increase in fees’

A spokesperson for the NPA said: ‘The GPhC is proposing to levy a big percentage increase at a time when community pharmacy finances are already under immense pressure.

‘We cannot possibly support such a steep increase in fees for pharmacy regulation. The GPhC says it needs to cover its costs, however pharmacy contractors are bound to ask if the regulator is working as hard as pharmacies themselves to deliver efficiencies.’

The NPA will give a ‘detailed’ response to the GPhC in March after consulting with its members, the spokesperson added. 

PSNC: Fee increase ‘comes at a particularly difficult time’

The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) warned that contractors might struggle in the face of ‘any further increase in costs’.

PSNC chief Simon Dukes said: ‘PSNC works collaboratively with the GPhC; we recognise the importance of regulation and we support the need for that function to be properly funded.

‘However, any further increase in costs for community pharmacy contractors comes at a particularly difficult time when businesses are already facing significant financial challenges from a combination of rising costs, capacity issues and flat funding.’

Numark: Proposals ‘difficult to justify’

Independent pharmacy support group Numark said the proposed increase in premises fees ‘will be incomprehensible for many independent contractors’.

A spokesperson said: ‘The previous highest increase in the last 10 years was around 9%, so the sharp increase in the current proposal seems difficult to justify. This increase will compound the already stretched finances of our members.

‘Numark would urge the GPhC to fully consider all alternative options and internal efficiencies to cover the shortfall identified in their cost allocation model.’

 PDA: Full fee overhaul needed

The Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) reiterated its call for a full overhaul to the GPhC’s fee structure, following the announcement that the regulator ‘will be exploring further changes’ to all its fees.

In its response to the GPhC’s previous proposal to increase registration fees in March, the membership body said that the current fee system ‘appears to support the continued targeting of individual registrants, rather than its dual role of the regulation of both individuals and premises.’

It added: ‘The GPhC must review its overall fee structure to ensure a proportionate focus on the regulation of premises/systems and individuals – the GPhC has highlighted in its consultation document that 83% of its budget income comes from individual registrants and only 16% comes from pharmacies.’

The PDA will publish a formal response to the new consultation ‘in due course’, a spokesperson added.