The General Pharmaceutical Council – the disciplinary hearing (part 3)

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The General Pharmaceutical Council – the disciplinary hearing (part 3)
By: Anonymous | Published On: 7/04/19 6:38 pm

The GPC disciplinary process

Website: https://www.pharmacyregulation.org

The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPC) regulates pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and registered pharmacy premises in England, Scotland and Wales. Its general functions and duties are set out in The Pharmacy Order 2010. Regulation of these parties includes commencing disciplinary proceedings against offending members who fall under its ambit/jurisdiction.

Once matters have reached the disciplinary stage a Fitness to Practise Committee is convened.

This panel is made up as follows:

  1. Chairman (this person could be legally qualified but may not be – there is an increasing move to appoint legal qualified Chairs however this is still not taking place across the board).
  2. One registrant member – in the case of GPC hearings that will obviously be a pharmacist.
  3. A lay member.

Also present in hearings will be a legal adviser whose role it is to advise the panel on legal matters which arise. They should not have any input into the decision making process.

The case being brought will be presented by someone referred to as a case presenter. They will generally be a solicitor or a barrister. Sometimes these roles are fulfilled by people employed by the GPC but often it will an external professional brought in to present the case on their behalf.

One of the most contentious issues is that FTP Committees are not bound by the strict rules of evidence that one might actually expect.

If you want to have a closer look at the procedure for such hearings they are set out in the General Pharmaceutical Council (Fitness to Practise and Disqualification etc. Rules) Order of Council 2010, Part 6.

However the general procedure (aside from rules of evidence) is not entirely different from what you might expect or indeed have seen in other forums.

The process first considers the facts of the case to decide if they are proved before considering what they then amount to if anything.

FACTS STAGE:

  1. The case presenter will open the case by giving the Committee an outline of the case.
  2. The case presenter will then adduce (call) evidence being called on behalf of the GPC to support their case. You or your representative will be given the opportunity to challenge this evidence in the form of cross-examination (questioning the witnesses called).
  3. The case presenter closes their case having called all the evidence they want to.
  4. There is then an opportunity for the registrant (you) or your representative to make a submission of no case to answer.
  5. You will then be given the opportunity to call evidence of fact. You may or may not decide to give evidence yourself. You can also call witnesses to support your case. Of course you and they are likely to be challenged by the case presenter if felt necessary.

Once this is completed the Committee, having taken legal advice, will consider which facts it finds to be proved on the balance of probability. This determination must be reasoned and clear and produced in writing to give all parties the opportunity to consider the next stage.

IMPAIRMENT STAGE:

The Committee will then proceed to consider whether on the facts it has found proved this results in the registrant having an impaired practise.

It will follow the same process of evidence being called however generally it is dealt with by submissions only.

It is generally thought that whatever the position on giving evidence before this stage you should give evidence now unless you have made professional and detailed submissions already on the matter.

Again the Committee must consider this carefully and produce a full and reasoned determination.

SANCTION STAGE:

If the matter reaches this stage the Committee will proceed to consider what to do about the fact that your practise is currently impaired.

Commonly asked questions:

-    Who has to prove what?

As with all systems the person bringing the case must prove it. Therefore in this case the GPC will need to prove their case. You do not need to disprove them.

-    What is the standard?

The standard applied is “on the balance of probabilities”. Therefore if the panel think it more likely than not (even if only marginally) that a fact is proved then it is and th standard has been achieved.

-    Will the public know of the hearing?

Although generally the public are not in attendance at earlier hearings these hearings are public. There are of course exceptions but they are only in cases where your health is the subject of the hearing. The position is different for earlier hearings. You should however be aware that hearings in the main and all determinations are published on the GPC website for the public to view.

If you are have any concerns about anything mentioned above contact me for a free no obligation initial conversation.

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