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'Dishonest' pharmacist suspended for working two jobs at the same time

A pharmacist has been suspended for six months for “dishonesty” over working two jobs simultaneously, the regulator has revealed. 

Chioma Cynthia Uzoma, registration number 2212749, was handed the suspension at a General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) fitness-to-practise committee hearing earlier this month (May 2-3).

She was employed to work full-time as a medicines optimisation pharmacist at NHS Arden and Greater East Midlands Commissioning Support Unit (Arden & GEM CSU), but also worked as a pharmacist at Peterborough City Hospital (PCH) two days a week, according to a determination document published by the regulator.

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Ms Uzoma had previously confirmed to Arden & GEM CSU that she would be employed by that unit alone, working remotely due to COVID-19 from Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm, it said.

But when she began work at the unit in April 2021, she "simultaneously" continued to work for PCH for two days a week during Monday to Friday, the committee heard.

Read more: Pharmacy technician found with ‘indecent images of children’ struck off

The regulator recognised that Ms Uzoma was a pharmacist “of good standing for many years”, did not harm any patients with her misconduct and admitted to the allegations against her early in the disciplinary process. 

But it found that Ms Uzoma’s “deplorable” and “disgraceful” dishonesty “showed a palpable lack of professional judgment unbefitting a registered pharmacist”.

 

Suspicions raised

 

On the morning of Friday April 30 2021, almost a month into her employment at Arden & GEM CSU, Ms Uzoma could not be reached by her colleagues, most of whom were working remotely due to the pandemic, the hearing document said.

At 10:53am, Ms Uzoma contacted her colleague to say that she was ill with “a very bad tummy” and would not be able to work that day, it added.

This “raised suspicions” with her colleague, who approached their line manager, because “it was considered unusual for staff with stomach issues not to be able to make contact with their line manager”, according to the document.

Read more: Pharmacist suspended for nine months over online supply of high-risk drugs

Her new colleagues had also been concerned by Ms Uzoma’s “environment while working remotely” and they had checked her LinkedIn profile, which said she was currently employed at both Arden & GEM CSU since April 2021 and at PCH since 2019, it said.

On her return to work on May 4, Ms Uzoma repeated that she had had an upset stomach and filled in a form certifying that the information she had given was correct, it added.

But the head of service for medicines optimisation at Arden & GEM CSU decided to contact the chief pharmacist at PCH the same day, the committee heard.

 

Two roles

 

The chief pharmacist told their counterpart that Ms Uzoma was first employed by PCH in a full-time role as a medicines information pharmacist in October 2019, the document said.

In February 2021, she had been booked to cover shifts at the hospital between March 31 and June 30 of the same year and in April, the month she started at Arden & GEM CSU, Ms Uzoma negotiated a two-day week arrangement with the hospital “due to child-minding issues”, it added.

Read more: Pharmacist struck off for illegitimate codeine supply after threats to family

Ms Uzoma’s hospital timesheet showed that she had been working a full-day shift on-site for PCH on April 30 – the day she had reported in sick to Arden & GEM CSU – and therefore her claim that “she was not fit for work was not true”, it said.

It was discovered that Ms Uzoma had worked a total of eight shifts at PCH while she was supposed to be on duty with Arden & GEM CSU in April 2021, despite completing a declaration asserting that her role at the unit would be her “only job” when she was recruited by the latter, the committee heard.

It heard that she “had undertaken and been paid for both roles at the same time on Thursdays and Fridays” and that she had managed the two jobs by working “though the night and early morning”.

 

Resignation

 

Ms Uzoma told the regulator at the hearing that she had intended to resign from PCH once she had “handed over” to a colleague, which she said happened on April 30, and that she had intended to finish working at PCH “in the first week of May”, the document said.

On May 4, Arden & GEM CSU notified Ms Uzoma that she was “suspended”, but the same day she emailed the unit a one week’s notice that she would be terminating her contract with it and the next day she asked for the termination of her contract “with immediate effect”, it added.

Read more: Pharmacist slapped with 12-month suspension for illegal supply of 2m pills

 

Arden & GEM CSU did not accept her resignation but reminded her that she “must not…undertake any paid employment for a third party whilst on suspension”, it said.

 

Ms Uzoma did not attend her May 14 disciplinary hearing and was “summarily dismissed” for “gross misconduct” by Arden & GEM CSU, with effect from May 11 2021, it added.

 

“Partially reflected on her misconduct”

 

The regulator acknowledged that Ms Uzoma had “partially reflected on her misconduct” and how it had affected her employers, her colleagues and the pharmacy profession and public, and that she had tried to “remedy her misconduct” by undertaking relevant “work, mentoring and learning”.

Read more: GPhC strikes off pharmacist for supplying zolpidem on black market

 

She also provided the regulator with “various positive testimonials and references” that attest to her “honesty, integrity, reliability and trustworthiness”, although they “appear to some extent to rely on information provided to them by the registrant herself”, it said.

 

Furthermore, the “dishonest activity” only occurred over a “relatively short period of about eight weeks” from March 2021 when she declared that her role at Arden & GEM CSU would be her only job, it added.

 

“Juggling a lot of things”

 

The GPhC also said that she “expressed remorse and regret” that was “undoubtedly genuine” and “co-operated” with the investigation and proceedings, and that there was “no evidence of patient harm”.

Ms Uzoma said her “poor decision” was “wrong and should not have happened at all” and described herself as “naïve” and “juggling a lot of things at the time”, the document said.

Read more: Pharmacist struck off after £530k fraud spree to cover gambling debts

 

“I was in a very difficult and stressed place and was still trying to outperform myself”, she told the committee.

 

The committee recognised the “serious detrimental impact” suspension would have on Ms Uzoma and her family as she is a “joint breadwinner” with her husband and has two children, a mortgaged home that “would not be possible to maintain…on one income” and rising living costs.

 

Inconsistent testimony

 

But the GPhC considered various aggravating factors, including that she “abused the trust of her employer” and that her “deception may have continued had it not been discovered”.

It also stressed that her misconduct was “self-serving” and that it posed “potential risk to patients as there was a risk arising from her working while exhausted”.

And the regulator raised “a number of concerns about the quality and consistency” of Ms Uzoma’s evidence.

Read more: Pharmacist struck off for stealing almost £45k worth of stock from employer

 

While Ms Uzoma said that she intended to resign and that she had been at PCH to “deal with a handover” on April 30, the regulator found there was “no independent contemporaneous evidence” to support this.

 

This claim was inconsistent with her renegotiating her hours with PCH in April – which she said happened in February – and with her being booked for shifts until the end of June, it said.

 

Ms Uzoma had also claimed that her line manager at PCH was aware that she would be working at Arden & GEM CSU at the same time, according to the regulator, which said this claim was “implausible”. 

 

Read more: Watchdog ‘not yet assured’ GPhC has fixed fitness-to-practise concerns

 

And the regulator said that her claim that she “put the needs of others ahead of her own in attending work at PCH on April 30” was “not consistent with her attending a face to face meeting with a pregnant colleague while suffering from a gastro-intestinal condition”.

 

The committee heard that she was “not…the most accurate historian of her own narrative” and concluded that she “provided explanations that she perceives to be helpful to her case”.

 

Minimising allegations

 

Furthermore, Ms Uzoma said that she had been “open” with her current employer, the Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Integrated Care System (C&P ICS), about the fitness-to-practise case against her, the GPhC said.

But when the regulator examined the information that Ms Uzoma had provided to the ICS, it found that her declaration was “not an accurate reflection” and “appears to minimise the allegation”, it added.

The regulator found that Ms Uzoma had “only partial insight into the nature of her misconduct” and determined that she was attempting to “minimise her dishonesty” by telling the committee that her misconduct arose “from her positive intentions”.

Read more: Will regulatory reforms make fitness-to-practise processes swifter and fairer?

 

“While the committee acknowledges the progress made by the registrant and that she has made efforts to remediate her misconduct, she needs to reflect more deeply on the context and root cause of her dishonesty,” it said.

 

“Until she does so and is honest with herself about the reasons for it, she will not be in a position to fully remediate her misconduct or demonstrate that it is highly unlikely to be repeated,” it added.

 

It said that her conduct “demonstrated an attitudinal shortcoming that was difficult to remedy”

 

Six-month sanction

 

The GPhC found that Ms Uzoma’s fitness to practise is “currently impaired as a result of her misconduct”, saying it was “unable to conclude that it is highly unlikely to be repeated” if she found herself “in similar stressful circumstances” and that she “might be unable to resist repeating the dishonesty”.

It decided to suspend her registration for six months, with a review hearing to be held before the end of the suspension period, according to the hearing document.

Since the suspension would only take effect 28 days after she is notified of the outcome, or on the completion of an appeal, the regulator decided to impose an immediate interim suspension to cover these periods, it said.

Read the full determination here

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