Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care v General Pharmaceutical Council and another [2014] EWHC 2521 (Admin)

Posted on
Queen's Bench Division, Administrative Court (London)

The second respondent was a registered pharmacist. She was charged with wilful neglect of her four month old daughter in failing to obtain prompt medical assistance and treatment for her injuries, thereby exposing her to unnecessary suffering and injury to health. The daughter's injuries included a complex skull fracture with underlying brain injury, a transverse fracture to the right humerus, and multiple metaphyseal corner fractures to the right and left proximal femurs, distal femurs and distal tibia. In February 2013, she pleaded guilty to two counts of cruelty to a child under 16 and, in April, was sentenced to a term of 14 months' imprisonment, concurrent on each count. In January 2014, the Fitness to Practise Panel of the first respondent General Pharmaceutical Council (the panel) identified the second respondent's lack of integrity and found that her fitness to practise was impaired by reason of the convictions. However, it declined to order her removal from the register and decided to suspend her from the register for a period of 12 months. The appellant Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care appealed on the basis that the decision was unduly lenient. The first respondent supported the appellant's request for the panel's decision on sanction to be quashed and for the court to substitute an order for the second respondent's removal from the register. The second respondent had not attended court or engaged with the proceedings at any stage.

The appellant submitted that: (i) the panel had erred in its approach to the question of the second respondent's insight into her conduct; (ii) the second respondent's criminal conduct, her continuing lack of insight and her failure to cooperate with the investigations following her arrest had all been fundamentally incompatible with her continued registration as a pharmacist and her removal from the register had been required; (iii) the panel had failed to consider and apply any of the other individual factors identified in the indicative sanctions guidance as relevant to removal from the register; and (iv) in all the circumstances, the panel should have found that removal had been the only remedy which had adequately marked the seriousness of the case.

The appeal would be allowed.

The submission that the panel had erred in its approach to the question of the second respondent's insight into her conduct would be accepted without hesitation. The panel's decision to order her suspension to allow her time to develop her grasp of the concept of insight had been plainly wrong. The lack of insight and the lack of integrity identified by the panel meant that its decision to suspend, rather than remove, had been manifestly wrong. Further, the panel had erred in failing adequately to consider, at the point of sanction, how the lack of integrity it had found to be demonstrated on the evidence at the impairment stage had impacted upon her fitness to practise, and upon trust and confidence in the pharmacy profession. Had the panel properly considered the factors in the indicative sanctions guidance, it could have concluded only that removal had been the appropriate sanction in the circumstances. Having regard to the need to protect the public, to uphold standards and maintain public confidence in the profession, no reasonable panel could have imposed any sanction other than removal. The panel had provided no adequate reasons for explaining what had plainly been an aberrant decision (see [33], [35], [38], [41], [44], [45] of the judgment).

The panel's decision to suspend the second respondent for a period of 12 months would be quashed and an order for her removal from the register would be substituted (see [46] of the judgment).

Reproduced with kind permission of LexisLibrary.