GPhC makes ‘difficult decision’ to implement 7.5% fee hike
Registration and renewal fees for pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and pharmacy premises will rise by 7.5 per cent despite overwhelming opposition from the sector, the General Pharmaceutical Council has confirmed.
The increase, which will come into effect from April 2024, will see pharmacy technician fees rise from £121 to £130, pharmacist fees from £257 to £276 and premises fees from £257 to £276.
The regulator said that although it had been able to freeze registrant fees since 2019 and premise fees since 2021 through measures like drawing on its reserves and moving to cheaper office, it is now being hit by rising inflation, utility bills and supplier costs.
As a result, it concluded it must increase its charges “in order to be in a position to continue to carry out regulatory work”.
A consultation on the fee increase proposals that ran between May and August this year identified strong opposition from the sector. Out of 7,057 responses, 84 per cent disagreed or strongly disagreed with the increase itself, while 64 per cent objected to the proposed policy of raising all three fees by the same percentage.
Analysing common themes that emerged in the responses, the GPhC found that many registrants felt this would be an unreasonable addition to financial burdens at a time when the cost of living is high and salaries are static for many registrants, and when many pharmacies are being forced to close. Others perceived the fee hike as unfair because they felt the costs of regulation offer them no tangible benefits.
Meanwhile, a number of respondents argued that there should be a permanent or long-term fee freeze, and other called for a monthly direct debit option in addition to the current quarterly and yearly options.
In response to these criticisms, the regulator said it was “seeking in the near future to move towards a more regular and incremental approach to fees setting, which will provide more certainty about future fees and enable any fee changes to be introduced more gradually in the future”.
Chief executive Duncan Rudkin said: “We know that these are challenging times and that this increase will come as unwelcome news to those we regulate. But to be effective in our role of protecting the public we need to make sure the fees we charge cover the cost of regulation going forward.”
Mr Rudkin said the regulator is “subject to the same inflationary pressures and financial challenges as those we regulate,” adding that it is operating in a “changing environment” and must adapt.
“This will continue to lead to significant changes in the scope and complexity of our work, on top of the major projects we are already undertaking such as reforms to initial education and training; post-registration assurance of practice, and the development of new standards following legislative change,” he said.
“In taking this difficult decision, we are ensuring we can carry out our statutory duties and continue to ensure patients and the public receive safe and effective pharmacy care and have trust in pharmacy, now and in the future.”