Fitness to Practise
General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) legislation states that individuals only have the right to be entered on the GPhC Register if the GPhC are satisfied that the pharmacy student or trainee meets the education and training requirements and are fit to practise. Students and trainee’s fitness to practise is therefore judged by the same standards as those applied to registered pharmacy professionals.
The GPhC’s standards for pharmacy professional’s states the following in relation to students and trainees:
The standards for pharmacy professionals are relevant to all pharmacy students and trainees while they are on their journey towards registration and practice. The standards explain the knowledge, attitudes and behaviours that will be expected of students and trainees if they apply to join the register. They should be interpreted in the context of education and training and used as a tool to prepare students and trainees for registration as a pharmacy professional. Pharmacy students and trainees should consider the standards as they move closer to registration and professional practice, and should read them alongside other relevant documents that are provided by initial education and training providers.
The standards should be used as a tool to prepare for registration and qualification and should be read alongside other relevant documents that are provided by their education and training provider. It will help aspiring professionals understand what demonstrates good fitness to practise and, as a consequence, what is needed to demonstrate professionalism.
Pharmacy education and training providers have a responsibility to identify concerns about pharmacy student and trainee’s health, conduct or professionalism and to investigate and act where necessary.
Training providers set their own fitness to practise procedures. The GPhC does not have any legal jurisdiction to participate in pharmacy student and trainee fitness to practise cases.
Student fitness to practise
A pharmacy student or trainee’s fitness to practise is called into question when their conduct or health raises a serious or persistent cause for concern about their ability or suitability to continue on a course or complete their training. This includes, but is not limited to, the possibility that they could put students, trainees, health and care professionals, patients and members of the public at risk, and the need to maintain trust in the profession.
Dealing with Concerns
Once a concern is raised, a pharmacy education or training provider must investigate and act if impairment is found.
The process will likely involve:
- Action to address an immediate concern if the nature of a concern suggests there is immediate risk to the safety of patients, the public, other health and care staff or the individual themselves. This could for example mean excluding a student or trainee from an education or training environment on a precautionary basis while an investigation takes place.
- Investigation of the facts, circumstances and evidence that lead to the fitness to practise concern(s).
- Hearing if the investigation conclude that a fitness to practise hearing is necessary, a fitness to practise panel will be convened to consider the evidence and decide on the appropriate sanction if impaired fitness to practise is found.
If the student or trainee’s fitness to practise is impaired, the following sanctions, beginning with the least severe, can be imposed:
- the student or trainee receives a warning
- suspension from a pharmacy course or placement/employment
- expulsion from a pharmacy course or placement/employment.
Students and trainees have the right to be represented before fitness to practise hearings.
It is a well established fact that legal representation can significantly improve positive outcomes in fitness to practise cases. This is particularly important for pharmacy students and trainees because pharmacy education and training providers must report the outcome of fitness to practise hearings to the GPhC once a hearing has concluded. In addition, there is a duty on student or trainees to disclose any relevant outcomes (apart from warnings or when no action was taken) to the GPhC on application to begin pre-registration training and or/when applying to register as a pharmacy professional. The GPhC will use this information to assess an individual’s fitness to join the register.
Clearly, in relation to the above, a finding of impaired fitness to practise could have a lasting and significant implications for students and trainees.
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