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Technician who worked after drinking alcohol struck off

Working in a pharmacy while under the influence of alcohol has led to the removal of a pharmacy technician from the Register, by order of the fitness-to-practise committee of the General Pharmaceutical Council.

On 14 January 2014, the committee inquired into the case of Gloria Dwyer (registration number 5022643). Mrs Dwyer faced an allegation that on 17 July 2012 she attended work as a pharmacy technician while under the influence of alcohol, in that she brought alcohol into the pharmacy, she consumed alcohol while at the pharmacy and she smelt of alcohol. By reason of that conduct, the GPhC alleged that her fitness to practise was impaired.

Mrs Dwyer was not present at the hearing and was not represented.

Jessica Sutherland-Mack, barrister, appeared on behalf of the GPhC.

More animated than usual

The committee heard that on the day in question Mrs Dwyer was exuberant in manner and more animated than usual. Although no one had seen her drink alcohol, from an alleyway a bottle could be seen hidden outside the staff toilet window, and that bottle had not been there after Mrs Dwyer left work for the day. There was no evidence concerning how often this alleyway was checked or cleaned so it was not possible to identify the date and time at which the bottle came to be there. However, staff had been able to smell alcohol on Mrs Dwyer’s breath.

Giving the committee’s decision, the chairman, Geoff Pettigrew, said that on the balance of probabilities the committee found that Mrs Dwyer was impaired in her judgement on the day in question and was engaged in excessive behaviour. But the committee had to ask itself whether that impairment and excess in behaviour was due to the effects of alcohol.

“The evidence of consumption of alcohol on that day on the part of Mrs Dwyer is not direct and it is not conclusive. It is essentially circumstantial evidence,” the chairman said. However, the committee felt able to conclude, accepting the evidence it had, that Mrs Dwyer was working under the influence of alcohol.

Determining that her fitness to practise was impaired, the chairman turned to the matter of sanction. He said: “The registrant has denied the allegations against her but puts forward no other explanation… . It is incontrovertible that a registered pharmacy technician, allowing herself to consume alcohol and allowing herself to become under the influence of it, fails to meet accepted standards of personal and professional conduct.”

The chairman concluded: “On balance we found that the appropriate sanction moves towards a spectrum which results in removal, having regard to the complete lack of any engagement on the part of the registrant and thus the lack of any assurance that the sanction of suspension might be adequate to permit the registrant to recover her abilities to practise safely at some point in the future. Moreover, the sanction of removal would not conflict with the registrant’s personal circumstances where she indicates [in a letter] that she is retired [and] has no intention to work… .  In those particular and somewhat exceptional circumstances we direct removal from the Register.”

Mrs Dwyer was immediately suspended from the Register pending the coming into force of the erasure order.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2014.11138829

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