In her blog, ‘My horrific encounter with ‘fitness to practise’’, pharmacist Sarah Seddon shares the harrowing experience she had with the Nursing and Midwifery Council, and she was only a witness in the case.
Without wanting to detract in any way from Seddon’s ordeal, I would like to say that when the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) handled my fitness-to-practise hearing, it was altogether different. I was subject to these proceedings for a health issue: the culmination of a long period of alcohol use disorder.
Fitness-to-practise proceedings are nerve-wracking; there is no getting away from that fact. They are usually protracted affairs — it was four years from the first serving of papers on me to the final hearing. The outcome is always in doubt and, until your case is disposed of, your life is on hold. Each day becomes a trial.
I had dealings with several members of GPhC staff and I found them sympathetic to me, without detracting from the fact that I had a case to answer. During the process, there are conditions imposed that can seem daunting — just who do you get to supervise your practice? Who can you ask to write a quarterly report? The GPhC helped me with getting it all together.
At the final hearing, I defended myself, and the solicitor for the GPhC was helpful to me in that he advised which areas he would cover when questioning me. The chair of the panel was also helpful to me as I was on my own. The result was that my fitness to practise was considered no longer impaired and I could practise without restrictions.
Before anyone runs away with the idea that the GPhC is soft, I would like to remind people that it is not a welfare service. The regulator exists to protect the public and to uphold the good name of pharmacy and, should I have had any other issue, I would have been treated accordingly. However, from my experience, I think I would have been treated humanely — a precious thing when one is in the pits of despair.
Bob Dunkley, retired pharmacist