The General Pharmaceutical Council says it plans to understand and tackle the overrepresentation of black, Asian and minority ethnic individuals in fitness to practise concerns.
In a consultation document outlining its strategy to improve its approach to FtP, the GPhC says one of its key aims is to ensure the process is “fair, inclusive and free from discrimination and bias”.
“We need to better understand why we get a higher number of concerns about BAME professionals than we ought to expect statistically,” said the GPhC.
The regulator is seeking to minimise the impact of unconscious bias on FtP decisions, and will carry out a pilot “to test if there is a way to minimise unconscious bias in decision-making by removing references to personal characteristics such as race and ethnicity from documents seen by the Investigating Committee”.
Noting that in 2019-20 55 per cent of concerns about registrants were raised by members of the public and seven per cent from employers, the GPhC said: “We are considering collecting more data about the sources of concerns, to help us take the appropriate action to deal with any bias that we discover.
“We will continue to provide training to all key FtP decision-makers on unconscious bias in decision-making.”
GPhC chief Duncan Rudkin said it was “clear… that our present approach to fitness to practise needs to change”.
He said the regulator’s new approach will “help us to identify where there may be wider system failures that have contributed to things going wrong, which we need to work with others to address”.
Royal Pharmaceutical Society president Sandra Gidley said: “The regulator’s drive to improve its understanding of fitness to practise proceedings is welcome, especially its promised exploration of why a disproportionate number of cases are from black, Asian and minority ethnic communities.
“The GPhC has a responsibility to ensure fitness to practise processes are fair and do not discriminate against any registrants involved.”
Ms Gidley said RPS members had raised concerns about the GPhC’s processes, adding that while it was “positive” to see the regulator take steps to address this, “prompt action and change are needed”.