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Pharmacist who stole cash from Boots has name struck off the Register

By News Team

Fitness to practise committee meeting

A pharmacist who stole “substantial” sums of money from his employer has had his name removed from the Register by order of the Fitness to Practise Committee of the General Pharmaceutical Council.

At its meeting on 26 April 2011, the committee heard that Vyant Kumar Patel (registration number 2060584) had stolen a total of £1,490 from Boots on three separate occasions. The GPhC alleged that these thefts meant that Mr Patel’s fitness to practise was impaired by reason of misconduct.

Mr Patel was not present at the hearing and was not represented.

Jeremy Loran, instructed by the fitness-to-practise and legal affairs directorate of the GPhC, appeared on behalf of the council.

Substantial sums

The committee heard that Mr Patel had admitted that on two occasions he misappropriated substantial sums of money from the pharmacy at which he was manager by taking the money in cash from sums due to be deposited in the pharmacy bank account. On a third occasion Mr Patel dishonestly took £100 in £20 notes from the till of the pharmacy for his own use.

The motive for the thefts was that Mr Patel needed to relieve his rather desperate financial situation resulting from overspending and living beyond his means. Notwithstanding his admissions, Mr Patel had denied his fitness to practise was impaired.

The committee also heard that Mr Patel had, since August 2009, practised as a pharmacist without fault and had earned high commendation from those for whom he had worked as a pharmacist.

Giving the committee’s decision, the chairman, Patrick Milmo, QC, said that Mr Patel’s conduct in helping himself to large sums of money from a pharmacy at which he was in charge “can in our view fittingly be described as egregious”. Further, following the guidance offered by the case of Yeong v General Medical Council [2009], the Committee had to distinguish cases where misconduct arose from clinical errors and incompetence, where remedial action could be taken by the practitioner, from those cases where the conduct involved a breach or breaches of a fundamental tenet of the profession.

“Dishonesty on the scale committed by Mr Patel is in our view such as to amount to a clear breach of a fundamental tenet,” the chairman said.

He referred to the Yeong case, where that chairman had said: “Where a fitness-to-practise panel considers that the case is one where the misconduct consists of violating a fundamental rule of the profession, thereby undermining public confidence in the profession, a finding of impairment of fitness to practise may be justified on the grounds that it is necessary to reaffirm clear standards of professional conduct so as to maintain public confidence in the practitioner and in the profession.

“In such a case the efforts made by the practitioner in question to address his behaviour for the future may carry very much less weight than in a case where the misconduct consists of clinical errors or incompetence.”

The committee considered that those observations clearly applied to Mr Patel’s case and had no hesitation in finding that, by reason of his dishonesty, his fitness to practise as a pharmacist was impaired.

Lack of insight

The chairman mentioned Mr Patel’s lack of insight into his misconduct. He said: “We doubt whether Mr Patel even now recognises quite how grave and profoundly reprehensible his conduct was.” In his statement he had asserted that he had never been dishonest with regard to medicines, which the committee accepted, and that the theft arose from a sense of desperation which would never arise again because he would plan his finances more carefully and turn to his family for support if needed. “What he does not expressly, or even implicitly in our view, acknowledge is that these thefts clearly arose from a complete failure to recognise and observe basic moral and social values, one of which must be that stealing is utterly unacceptable conduct no matter what the circumstances.”

Ordering Mr Patel’s immediate suspension pending removal from the Register, the chairman said: “We find unhesitatingly that Mr Patel’s conduct in stealing large sums of money from his employer is behaviour fundamentally incompatible with registration, and public confidence in the profession demands no lesser sanction.”

Mr Patel had 28 days to appeal, and was removed from the Register on 1 June 2011.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal URI: 11080587

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