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Decriminalisation update

Posted: Friday, February 9th, 2018

The Privy Council has signed the Order approving the new statutory defences to prosecutions under section 64 of the Medicines Act 1968.  After 8 March, the Government can introduce a commencement order.  The commencement order will specify the date the new defences into law.  The earliest this can happen is April 2018.

Review into the application of gross negligence manslaughter in healthcare

Posted: Wednesday, February 7th, 2018

Following the outcry in the medical profession over the High Court's recent decision to strike Dr Bawa Garba off the register after her manslaughter conviction, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care announced in the House of Commons on 6 February 2018 that he has asked Professor Sir Norman Williams to "conduct a rapid review into the applicaiton of gross negligence manslaughter in healthcare".

On the same day as Mr Hunt's announcement of a review, the General Pharmaceutical Council issued a statement saying that it will "actively engage with the rapid review". The focus of the GPhC's statement appears to be on pharmacy owners promoting a culture of openness, honesty and learning when things go wrong.  This is to be seen within the proposals for revalidation.

The GPhC says it only takes forward the most serious cases, and a single dispensing error would only be taken forward if there are significant other aggravating factors.  This does not seem to take matters any further, because the GPhC would inevitably regard a single fatal dispensing error resulting in a manslaughter conviction as one in which fitness to practise proceedings would be taken.

We welcome the views of PLEA members on the subject manslaughter in healthcare cases and will consider whether we can contribute to the review.


Doctors up in arms over manslaughter judgment

Posted: Tuesday, February 6th, 2018

The medical profession appears to be up in arms about a recent High Court judgment overturning a decision of the Medical Practitioners Tribunal to impose a suspension on a paediatric doctor following her conviction for manslaughter - GMC v Dr Bawa-Garba [2018] EWHC 76 (Admin).   

Dr Bawa-Garba had worked a double shift – 13 hours straight – when her errors led to the tragic death of a 6-year-old boy in 2011.  A jury found Dr Bawa-Garba guilty of gross negligence manslaughter.  The General Medical Council brought fitness to practise proceedings and the Medical Tribunal Practitioner Service decided to impose a suspension, having regard to the mitigation presented to it, including that Dr Bawa-Garba had practised for years without complaint both before the 2011 incident and after.  The GMC appealed against the suspension.  Two High Court judges ruled that when the Tribunal imposed a suspension, the Tribunal had failed to give weight to the verdict of the jury: in order to convict of gross negligence manslaughter, the jury must have found that Dr Bawa-Garba’s negligence was truly exceptionally bad.  In view of this, it would undermine public confidence in the medical profession if the doctor was not erased from the profession.  At the end of January 2018, the court allowed the GMC’s appeal and overturned the Tribunal’s suspension decision.

Although the High Court disavowed any suggestion that its ruling meant that striking off is the only possible sanction in the case of a gross manslaughter conviction, it is difficult to imagine a case where a manslaughter conviction will not now result in striking off.



New GPhC threshold criteria for fitness to practise investigations

Posted: Sunday, February 4th, 2018

Following a consultation, the GPhC has now published new threshold criteria which apply to all decisions whether to refer a case to its Investigating Committee.  The new criteria is available on the GPhC's website.

The GPhC says "the new criteria will help make sure that a proportionate, fair and consistent approach is taken when making decisions once our investigation concludes."

Decriminalisation of dispensing errors draws nearer

Posted: Thursday, February 1st, 2018

Following Parliamentary approval in December, the Order giving effect to statutory defences to prosceutiions under section 64 of the Medicines Act when a dispensing error is made is due to go before the Privy Council on 8 February 2018.

The Department of Health and Social Care says the Government and Devolved Administrations intend to bring the defences into force - via a commencement order - as soon as practically possible after Privy Council consideration.

At the annual PLEA seminar on 16 May 2018, David Reissner and Noel Wardle will be presenting a mini court hearing, testing the application of the new statutory defences.

Social media use - professional conduct trumps freedom of religion and freedom of expression

Posted: Friday, January 26th, 2018

David Reissner's Chemist & Druggist article on professional conduct and social media use is now out. It concerns a case in which posts reflecting genuinely held religious beliefs and the right to freedom of expression lost out to how people might perceive a would-be healthcare professional. As a result, he lost his career. A troubling case? The article is on the C&D website, or it can be viewed here


GMC appeals is own tribunal panel decision and wins

Posted: Thursday, January 25th, 2018

The GMC has appealed a decision from the Medical Practitioners Tribunal (MPT), the independent medical FtP panel. The MPT awarded a sanction of 12-month suspension from the register. The GMC appealed on the grounds that the outcome was too lenient and would not uphold public confidence in the profession. The GMC has won its appeal and the registrant has been removed from the register.

Pulse has produced this article on the case.

This finding could suggest that the "public confidence in the profession" test may carry more weight in the future. (MB)

Karen Pitchford - Update

Posted: Friday, January 19th, 2018

Karen Pitchford

Earlier this week we announced the sad passing of Karen Pitchford on Saturday 13 January.

Karen's funeral will take place on Friday 2nd February at 14:00 at Springwood Crematorium, Liverpool L25 7UN.

In lieu of flowers, people are being asked for donations to the Whitechapel Centre ( There is a page for donations:

Sad News

Posted: Monday, January 15th, 2018

Karen Pitchford

It is with great sadness that we must notify you of the death of Karen Pitchford, one of our members. Karen passed away suddenly and without warning on Saturday 13 January.

Karen was a well known academic in the UK Pharmacy Law arena and was recent co-author of the 11th edition of "Dale and Appelbe's Pharmacy and Medicines Law" with Joy Wingfield.

Karen was most recently a Senior Teaching Fellow at Aston University. She qualified as a pharmacist in 1993 working in community pharmacy and as a Teacher Practitioner at Liverpool John Moores University. She moved to DeMontfort University in 2002 and then most recently to Aston University in early 2017. 

Karen always had time for everyone, inspiring many to have an interest in pharmacy law and will be sadly missed. PLEA wishes to extend our thoughts to Paul, her husband, and all those who knew Karen. A great loss to our community.

We will update as and when we have further details.

Research request - pharmacists' perceptions of new GPhC Guidance and Standards

Posted: Thursday, January 11th, 2018

Dr Sara Fovargue of Lancaster University and Dr Mary Neal of Strathclyde Unviersity are undertaking a pilot study looking at pharmacists' perceptions of the new GPhC Guidance and Standards relating to personal values in professional practice, and exploring their views about the role of personal values in professional practice, and the concept of 'person-centred care' more generally. They hope that this pilot study will lead to a wider study involving more participants from a number of other relevant professions. 

The project forms part of wider research on conscientious objection in healthcare. Further information about the pilot study can be found on the project website: other pages give information about the researchers, and how to contact them.

Participation in the project will consist of a semi-structured interview, either in person or (where that's not possible) via Skype, conducted either by Dr Fovargue or Dr Neal. This format is designed to give participants space to discuss their experiences and views as freely as possible.

Interviews will be recorded, and each participant will be interviewed separately. We will not disclose the identity of participants to one another or to anyone else, or communicate in such a way as to reveal this. Only Dr Fovargue and Dr Neal will know who the participants are.  The information gathered from the interviews will be transcribed and stored anonymously, and when they refer to it and/or quote it in published outputs, they will not use real names or reveal anything which would risk readers being able to identify the participants.

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These news items are not exhaustive but are selected according to their relevance to pharmacy practice, NHS community pharmacy contracts and the regulation of the pharmacy profession. If you wish to add any items that you think we have missed, contact our news editor.