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'Disgraceful' pharmacy technician struck off for selling stolen test strips on eBay

A pharmacy technician has been struck off the register for reselling stolen blood sugar tests on eBay and for breaching GDPR by storing “thousands” of prescriptions in her car boot, the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) has revealed. 

Rita Mehmi, registration number 5010492, was given a suspended sentenced of two years’ imprisonment for stealing “goods valued at £10,000” from Swanpool Pharmacy in Tipton, a GPhC fitness-to-practise (FtP) committee heard on January 22-23.

She was “intentionally defrauding her employer by stealing the [blood sugar] test strips from work to sell on eBay”, according to the hearing document.

The regulator admitted that Ms Mehmi had repaid her superintendent £14,000 and written him a “letter of apology”. 

It also found that she “had experienced distressing difficulties in her personal and home life”.

But it said that her actions were “premeditated”, with the superintendent giving evidence that she would order in extra test strips “on days that she knew he would not be in attendance”.

It added that her “irresponsible” actions impacted him “both financially” - with him having to “take out loans to keep his business afloat” - and “emotionally”.

 

Sting operation

 

The superintendent pharmacist and owner of Swanpool Pharmacy “noticed an excess of Aviva Test strips being ordered” and that “his costs at the pharmacy had risen since the registrant had started working” there in July 2019, the GPhC said.

He spoke to a friend about the situation at the pharmacy and they “made a joke” that Ms Mehmi “may be selling diabetic strips from the pharmacy on eBay”, according to the document.

This led him to search Ms Mehmi’s postcode on eBay and ask “if anyone was selling diabetic test strips” and he received a response from “user SARB 900, which was the registrant’s husband’s account”, it added.

After asking his cousin to order a box of strips, the superintendent found that the batch number on the box matched a batch ordered to the pharmacy and recognised Ms Mehmi’s handwriting “on the jiffy bag from the eBay order”, the GPhC said.

He used CCTV to capture further evidence and rang the police on May 29 2020, who found “thousands of prescriptions in the boot of the registrant’s car, together with a box of Aviva test strips”, it added.

 

“Disgraceful and dishonest”

 

The GPhC said that Ms Mehmi initially claimed she only sold strips from the pharmacy’s clinical waste bin that had been returned by patients, which she considered “rubbish” as they could not be re-dispensed and the pharmacy “had already been paid” for them.

She originally “entered a not guilty plea in the Magistrates Court” in December 2021, it added.

But she later pleaded guilty and was convicted of “one charge of theft by an employee” at a Crown Court hearing, the committee heard.

The GPhC committee said that it had seen the judge’s sentencing remarks, in which he referred to the registrant as “disgraceful and dishonest”.

The regulator added that Ms Mehmi had “continued to steal from the pharmacy for nine months", showing “deliberate intent to steal over a prolonged period of time”.

A police statement seen by the GPhC said that while she started to sell stolen stock to deal “with the financial difficulties she was in” – having “taken out two personal loans totalling £23,500 without her husband’s knowledge” - this “began to escalate”.

The regulator added that “regular customers for large quantities of diabetic strips” of up to “1,000 boxes” had been identified.

 

Over 2,000 “out of date” prescriptions

 

Meanwhile, the pharmacy’s superintendent told the committee that he had seen a bag containing “thousands of prescriptions”, including green FP10 prescriptions and “electronic prescriptions that had been printed out”, in the boot of Ms Mehmi’s car.

He said that he discovered “months later” that “when the police searched the registrant’s house, they found another bag of 2,068 prescriptions, which were out of date” – “so he could not claim payment for them”.

He added that the police had told him that “boxes of medication with patients’ labels on them were also found at the registrant’s home”.

The GPhC said that during police interviews, Ms Mehmi “had said that she did not have time to sort through the prescriptions at work” so she would do this at home before returning them to the pharmacy.

The superintendent “denied this”, saying he “intentionally overstaffed the pharmacy” and that the registrant would complain to him “about everything”, the GPhC added.

The regulator heard that Ms Mehmi was “in breach of GDPR” despite having undertaken “data protection training”, including that prescriptions should never be taken “off-site”.

It found that she hadn’t exercised “professional judgement…when managing the confidential information”.

 

“Abused trust”

 

On April 13 2022, Wolverhampton Crown Court sentenced Ms Mehmi to two years imprisonment suspended for two years, 20 days of rehabilitation activity and 90 hours of unpaid work, according to the hearing document.

The regulator found that “the taking of the prescriptions” – which included patient data such as names, addresses, NHS numbers and medical details - was “seriously reprehensible behaviour”.

“This was not an isolated incident but repeated dishonest conduct over the course of nine months”, it added.

It admitted that in addition to repaying the superintendent £14,000, Ms Mehmi had “completed her unpaid work requirement”.

And it added that she did not have “any previous fitness to practise history” and did not present a risk to the public.

But it stressed that she “denied any wrongdoing during the course of her two police interviews”, only pleading guilty when she was sent to the Crown Court. 

While the committee heard that Ms Mehmi “felt a sense of shame”, this “appeared to centre around the impact her actions had on herself, her husband and the local Asian community” and it said that it “had not seen substantial evidence of remorse”.

And it added that “as a technician” who had been qualified for 10 years by the time of the events, she “abused the trust placed in her” by the superintendent, and that she had not “provided evidence of remediation” or insight to the committee.

It also stressed that there was a “real risk of repetition” as Ms Mehmi had not given evidence at the hearing or supplied any character references or testimonials.

“She may be prepared to put her financial interests before her professional responsibilities when faced with difficult circumstances in the future,” it said.

The regulator found that her fitness to practice was “impaired” and determined that Ms Mehmi’s name would be “removed from the register”, with an interim suspension in place during the appeal period.

Read the determination in full here.

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