The pharmacy regulator has said it ‘keeps an open mind on whether there should be fewer regulatory bodies’.

Responding to the Department of Health and Social Care’s (DHSC) consultation, Promoting professionalism, reforming regulation, General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) chief executive Duncan Rudkin said that the GPhC ‘strongly supports the objectives this consultation is seeking to achieve, including its focus on professionalism.’

He continued: ‘Most of the coverage of the consultation in the pharmacy media has concentrated on the question of whether there should be fewer regulatory bodies and, if so, how a smaller number should be configured.

‘The GPhC keeps an open mind about this issue.

‘We need to probe the evidence base for change and explore whether any particular proposals would lead to better outcomes for patients and the public, which is the important thing.’

‘Dilute pharmacy expertise’

The DHSC argues that reducing the number of regulators from nine to three or four would protect patients and the public from harm, meet future health care challenges and reduce costs.

But the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) fears that it could ‘dilute pharmacy expertise and shift focus from key aspects of pharmacy practice.’

Researchers at the the Centre for Health Service Economics and Organisation showed that most scale economies can be achieved with regulators that have more than 100,000 members.

As the GPhC and Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland (PSNI) have 89,377 and 2,852 members, respectively, both could be ‘scrapped’, said the NPA.

Commenting on the proposals, NPA’s policy and practice committee chair Nitin Sodha, said: ‘The NPA is also concerned that large scale regulatory bodies may be less accessible to patients and the wider public and may not lend themselves to greater responsiveness.’

Working together

The GPhC believes that focusing on possible financial savings, ‘shouldn’t be a primary motivation or driver for that collaboration’ as it’s yet unclear ‘whether any projected savings would in fact materialise, or whether they would be significant enough to outweigh any disadvantages’.

It said: ‘We understand that one of the reasons for considering consolidation of regulators is the financial efficiencies of mergers. However we remain unconvinced about the evidence for this.

‘We believe that many of the financial efficiencies could be gained through more effective collaboration and co-operation between regulators, using some of the examples set out in the consultation.

‘And this can be done without the need for legislation.’

The GPhC’s response to the consultation can be found here.