Six-month Register suspension for inappropriate conduct
Inappropriate conduct that was contrary both to his employer’s standard operating procedure and to the pharmacy profession’s code of ethics has led the General Pharmaceutical Council’s Fitness-to-Practise Committee to suspend a Lancashire pharmacist from the Register for six months.
At its meeting on 9 June 2011, the committee inquired into the case of Mark Robert Taylor (registration number 2039228). It heard that in July 2008 while in the employment of a Rowlands Pharmacy in Leigh, Lancashire, Mr Taylor had entered the pharmacy while not on duty and without the authorisation of Rowlands, and had accessed the Controlled Drugs cabinet.
A further allegation was that in August 2008, Mr Taylor had had a heated discussion with a member of staff at the pharmacy during which he had stated that he would rip her face off, or words to that effect. The committee also heard that Mr Taylor had failed to co-operate with an investigation by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (the previous regulator) into his fitness to practise by ignoring a number of letters sent to his registered address.
When his employers had investigated the matter, Mr Taylor had said that he was suffering some personal stress at the time and described what happened as a moment of madness. He had been genuinely remorseful, said he deserved punishment, and was reconciled to the inevitability of being dismissed by his employer.
Mr Taylor was not present at the hearing and was not represented.
Mark Millin, FTP manager, advocacy, instructed by the fitness-to-practise and legal affairs directorate of the GPhC, appeared on behalf of the council.
The committee found all the particulars of allegation proved and, cumulatively, they amounted to inappropriate conduct.
With regard to the first allegation, the chairman, Douglas Readings, said the committee was satisfied, although it had not seen the standard operating procedures concerned, that L. Rowland & Co (Retail) Ltd would at all relevant times have had SOPs that required Mr Taylor, and any pharmacist or manager when not on duty, to obtain authority to enter the dispensary.
Plain breach of code
The chairman said: “There is a plain breach of principle 6.5 of the Code of Ethics for Pharmacists and Pharmacy Technicians dated 1 August 2007 which requires pharmacists to adhere to accepted standards of personal and professional conduct. The committee is satisfied that it is an accepted standard of conduct that a pharmacist who is not on duty must make himself known to the pharmacist who is on duty before accessing the dispensary or the CD cabinet, and must give a polite explanation for his conduct.”
Mr Taylor’s conduct in relation to the staff member was proved by her witness statement and by his own admissions during an interview in September 2008. “Principle 3.2 of the code requires pharmacists to treat others politely and considerately,” the chairman said.
Finally, he added, principle 7.10 of the code required pharmacists to “co-operate with an investigation into [his] or another healthcare professional’s fitness to practise”.
Giving the committee’s decision with regard to sanction, the chairman said that Mr Taylor’s behaviour was in breach of several important principles of the code of ethics and it demonstrated a flagrant disregard for the reputation of the profession, for procedures designed to protect the security of Controlled Drugs, and for the welfare of staff colleagues. It also demonstrated disrespect for the authority of the regulator and its role in protecting the public interest. “Mr Taylor chose to work in a regulated profession but has failed to co-operate with investigation by the regulatory body after first breaching principles of ethical conduct laid down by that body,” he said.
The committee accepted that Mr Taylor’s clinical performance had never been criticised. However, in the light of the fact that he had failed to co-operate with an investigation into his fitness to practise, the committee saw no possibility of making an order for conditional registration.
Having weighed in the balance Mr Taylor’s own interest in continuing to practise his profession, the committee concluded that his behaviour was not fundamentally incompatible with continued registration as a pharmacist. “It would,” the chairman said, “be sufficient and proportionate to make an order suspending Mr Taylor from the Register for a period of six months.”
The case will be reviewed before the end of the period of suspension. “It is to be hoped that Mr Taylor will then attend or be represented before the committee and will present evidence to demonstrate that he is then fit to return to practice as a pharmacist,” the chairman concluded.
Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal URI: 11080590