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GPhC tells pharmacist to undertake sexual boundaries training

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GPhC tells pharmacist to undertake sexual boundaries training

A locum pharmacist based in Sussex has been told he must undertake training in sexual boundaries and communication skills after the General Pharmaceutical Council’s fitness to practise committee determined that he had engaged in inappropriate and, in one instance, “sexually motivated” behaviour.

The GPhC’s fitness to practise committee placed a number of conditions on Simon Gregory Smith’s licence following hearings that began in late 2022 and concluded on November 22 last year.

The FtP committee considered evidence from three women who reported separate incidences involving inappropriate behaviour on Mr Smith’s part while he was working shifts in three Boots branches between June and September 2020. One complainant was a patient and the other two were colleagues.

Patient A said that when she requested to purchase Canesten cream from the registrant in August 2020 she was subjected to “inappropriate and perverse” questioning, with Mr Smith allegedly asking her what body part she needed it for, and after she gestured at her lower body saying something to the effect of ‘I need you to say what part of the body you need it for’ to which she responded ‘vagina’.

He then allegedly said words to the effect of “I would never need such a cream as I will never get thrush because I am not a woman…” The patient reported the incident to Boots head office.

Mr Smith told the committee he had no recollection of the consultation but said it was likely he would have asked questions to ensure the correct Canesten product was supplied but denied that his intention had been to make her say the word ‘vagina’.

“He accepted that he does, on occasions, make more informal comments to patients but that the intention was to build a rapport with them,” the FtP committee noted in its report. It determined that his questioning has been “inappropriate” but not “sexually motivated”.

However, in the case of a female junior member of staff referred to as Colleague 4, the FtP committee found that Mr Smith’s questioning around her tattoos and whether her private parts had been tattooed or pierced – an allegation he denied but which the FtP committee accepted – had been “both inappropriate and also sexually motivated”.

The committee found that over the course of the shift Mr Smith worked alongside Colleague 4 in June 2020 he had also asked “personal questions regarding boyfriends” and “intentionally stood close” to her, but did not accept the allegation that he had grabbed her biceps from behind to move her out of the way.

Another incident involved a woman referred to as Colleague 5 (who withdrew as a witness due to anxiety but provided a statement), who said that while working at the Boots St Leonards on Sea branch in September 2020 Mr Smith had “brushed past her and touched her backside,” intentionally stood close to her at the pharmacy computer and asked “personal questions” – such as where she lived and how long it took her to get home from work – that made her uncomfortable.

The FtP committee found that these allegations had been proven, but judged that the allegation Mr Smith had knelt close to her and touched her neck, ear or back had not been proven.

The committee found that his behaviour towards Colleague 5 had been inappropriate, but not sexually motivated, noting evidence from another witness who said staff at the pharmacy work in a confined space and commonly brush up against one another but emphasising that Mr Smith should have been respectful of Colleague 5’s personal space.

The committee found that while most of the proven allegations were not serious enough to constitute misconduct, some of his comments to Patient A and colleague 4 had amounted to misconduct and that his fitness to practise was therefore impaired. It decided that imposing a period of suspension would be “disproportionate and unduly punitive” and that placing conditions on his registration would be more appropriate.  

In addition to the training courses in communication skills and sexual boundaries, which he must pay for itself, Mr Smith must not work as a sole practitioner or superintendent  pharmacist and must nominate a pharmacist to oversee the progress of a personal development plan around professional boundaries.

The conditions will be in place for 12 months, with a review hearing to be conducted “towards the end” of this period.

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