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The GPhC's inspectors investigate complaints made against registered pharmacists, registered pharmacy technicians and pharmacy owners.
Complaints come from a variety of different sources, including patients and the public, other healthcare professionals, primary care organisations and other regulatory and enforcement authorities.
An investigation may also be undertaken if, during an inspection visit, the inspector finds a persistent non-compliance with legal requirements or regulatory standards, or a significant risk to patient or public safety.
What does an inspector do during an investigation?
How the inspector carries out an investigation will vary depending on the individual facts of a case.
Usually an investigation will include:
- speaking to the complainant and any witnesses
- speaking to the registered pharmacist or registered pharmacy technician against whom the complaint has been made
- visiting the registered pharmacy premises where the alleged incident(s) took place.
Depending on the nature of the complaint, the inspector may need to get witness statements from patients or other members of the public. The inspector may also formally interview pharmacists, their employees or owners of pharmacies in accordance with the provisions of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 and the relevant Codes of Practice made under that act.
The inspector may seize evidence as part of the investigation.
What powers do inspectors have to allow them to investigate?
For GPhC to operate as an effective regulator, inspectors are given a number of powers under the Pharmacy Order 2010 that enable them to carry out investigations.
These include powers to:
- investigate allegations that a registered pharmacist or registered pharmacy technician's fitness to practise is impaired
- enforce the standards set by the GPhC
- secure compliance with the Poisons legislation
- secure compliance with the relevant parts of the Medicines Act 1968 legislation
- enforce provisions within the Order relating to offences relating to the register
- enforce the relevant provisions of the Veterinary Medicines Regulations.
What happens during an investigation?
All investigations are different and the way we investigate your complaint depends on the seriousness and complexity of the issues you have raised. Most investigations are conducted by GPhC Inspectors. All inspectors are either pharmacy professionals themselves or trained investigators, and are highly skilled in investigating complaints.
During an investigation, the GPhC may do the following:
- Contact you to obtain further information about your complaint and/or take a witness statement from you.
- Provide a copy of your complaint to the pharmacy professional involved, or the owner of the pharmacy, and they will be asked to provide a response to your complaint. We will remove all personal information from your complaints form before providing it to any third party.
- Arrange a visit to the pharmacy to obtain evidence, take witness statements and give advice to the pharmacy professional involved.
In serious cases, the pharmacy professional may be formally interviewed under caution by one of the inspectors.
How long will the investigation take?
The time it takes to investigate varies depending on the seriousness of the allegations made and the complexity of the case, however, we aim to complete our investigations within six months from receipt of your complaint. We aim to update you on the progress of our investigation every three months, although you can contact the person managing your complaint at any time.
What happens next?
When the investigation has been concluded, we will review all the available evidence and determine what action to take. All cases are assessed against threshold criteria which we use to decide whether to refer the case to the Investigating Committee.
If it is not necessary to refer your complaint to the Investigating Committee we will write to you to explain the reasons why and, where appropriate, direct you to other organisations that may be able to help.
If it is necessary to refer your complaint to the Investigating Committee you will be informed of this and will be provided with the Investigating Committee's decision.
What are threshold criteria?
The GPhC uses threshold criteria to determine whether a case should be referred to the Investigating Committee. The threshold criteria have been developed the principles in the Standards for conduct, ethics and performance which all pharmacy professionals must comply with.
Cases that meet the threshold criteria are referred to the Investigating Committee. Cases that do not meet the threshold criteria are not referred to the Investigating Committee.
The threshold criteria [PDF, 37.23KB]
Why does the GPhC have threshold criteria?
We have threshold criteria because it allows us to resolve relatively minor cases swiftly and proportionately, because they do not have to be referred to the Investigating Committee.
What happens to cases which are not referred to the Investigating Committee?
If a case is not referred to the Investigating Committee, then the GPhC will not take any disciplinary action against the pharmacy professional involved. However, if appropriate, the GPhC will issue the pharmacy professional with advice on how to they can improve their practice in the future.
A record that a complaint has been received about the pharmacy professional will be retained and this information may be taken into account if any further complaints are made about them.
You can find out more about how we apply the threshold criteria by reading the guidance we issue to our investigators.
At any stage of the fitness to practise process, the GPhC may refer the complaint to the Fitness to Practise Committee. If the Committee consider it is necessary for the protection of the public, in the public interest, or in the interests of the pharmacy professional, they may make an interim order for suspension from the register, or impose conditions on the pharmacy professional's registration.