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Essential protected characteristics will stay in GPhC papers

By Neil Trainis

The General Pharmaceutical Council has said protected characteristics such as religion, race and ethnicity will remain in documents passed to its investigating committee if they provide “essential” context to any allegations levelled at registrants.

The regulator told Independent Community Pharmacist there would be exceptions to its new approach of redacting all references relating to personal characteristics as it attempts to avoid unconscious bias in its decision-making. It will start trialling the system in September.

The pilot follows growing concerns over the number of registrants from black and minority ethnic backgrounds who have appeared before fitness-to-practise hearings, not only in pharmacy, but in other health professions in recent years.

“Any characteristic which provides essential context to the background of the allegations such as gender in a sexual misconduct case or their religion in an allegation of antisemitism, Islamophobia, etc, would need to remain in the documents provided to the investigating committee,” the GPhC told ICP.

The regulator also said an individual’s nationality will be removed from documents if inclusion of that information contributes to unconscious bias.

“The aim is to redact any information (where this may be inferred through their name or by direct references) which may lead to an assumption about a registrant’s ethnicity/nationality thus creating an unconscious bias,” it said.

“Mention of this pilot will be communicated with investigated registrants for the sake of transparency and to ensure that registrants can make fully informed decisions as to whether or not to explicitly refer to their characteristics in the written submissions and/or evidence and documentation they may choose to submit for consideration by the investigating committee.”

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