I followed with interest contributions to a recent online
C&D debate on decisions of the GPhC's Fitness to Practise
Inevitably, contributors consider some decisions too severe, and
others too lenient. There are no easy answers to this, because
comparing a case in which a pharmacist fiddled the results of a
patient satisfaction survey with a case of a pharmacist who could
not account for Rohypnol is like comparing apples and oranges.
The GPhC appears to apply a more restrictive approach than the
Royal Pharmaceutical Society did when examining which cases should
be referred to a full disciplinary hearing. In particular, trivial
cases are usually screened out, and cases are not referred unless
the Investigating Committee considers that a pharmacist's
fitness to practise might be impaired. For example, I can't
imagine the GPhC even asking a pharmacy owner to make
representations to the Investigating Committee over the late
delivery of a gluten free loaf, as the RPSGB did. On the other
hand, it is clear from a case recently reported in C&D that
dispensing error cases may still be referred, especially if a
pharmacist makes what are considered to be a comparatively large
number of errors.
The definition of fitness to practise is based on a
recommendation of Dame Janet Smith who chaired the Shipman Inquiry.
The Fitness to Practise Committee must consider whether a
presents an actual or potential risk to patients or to the
has brought, or might bring, the profession of pharmacy into
has breached one of the fundamental principles of the
profession of pharmacy; or
shows that his or her integrity can no longer be relied
Some cases are naturally considered more serious than others,
typically cases involving dishonesty. Regardless of whether someone
is a good pharmacist, honesty is viewed as a fundamental principle
of the profession, because the public would take a dim view if
dishonest pharmacists are allowed to continue to practise.
A key change from the days of the old Statutory Committee is
that the Fitness to Practise Committee has the power to suspend.
This means public confidence can be maintained and striking off can
be avoided in many cases where the old Stat Comm had to make a
stark choice between striking off and giving a reprimand. The other
side of the coin is that if pharmacists are struck off under the
current rules, they will find it more difficult than in the past to
secure restoration to the Register.
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