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'Trustworthy' locum warned over repeated unauthorised records access

A locum pharmacist improperly accessed three patients’ medical records over 30 times across six years, the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) has revealed.

A locum pharmacist has been issued a warning from the regulator for repeated unauthorised access to patient records, according to hearing documents.

Alkesh Chandubhai Patel, registration number 2042440, accessed the medical records of three patients more than 30 times over the course of six years without authorisation, the GPhC’s fitness-to-practise (FtP) committee heard on February 7 and 8.

The regulator’s representative successfully petitioned the committee to hear in private anything that concerned Patel’s family life, family law, “a minor” and “any health matters”, according to the document.

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And the committee’s legal adviser added that “parental responsibility” does not override rules against viewing the medical records of others and that “a child of 12 years or older” was “capable of giving consent”, it added.

Patel admitted all allegations against him regarding the repeated unauthorised access of medical records, the document said.

He told the committee that at the time he inappropriately viewed the records he did not understand that clinical records should only be viewed for “clinical purposes”, it added. 

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The committee accepted that Patel had “no previous fitness to practise history” and he admitted that his behaviour had been "inappropriate, unprofessional” and “lacked integrity”.

But it stressed that he “abused his privileged access” to medical records and allowed his professional judgement to be affected by his “personal interests”.

 

“Evidence of anxiety”

 

Between August 2015 and December 2021, Patel accessed three people’s medical records without their consent, the committee heard. 

Patel accessed the records of “Person A” 22 times between 2015 and 2021, “Person B” twice in 2020 and 2021 and “Person C” nine times in 2020 and 2021, the hearing document said.

The summary care records (SCR) policy at Worksop Pharmacy, where Patel worked as a locum between January 2020 and December 2021, said healthcare practitioners should not view their own SCR or that of “other pharmacy colleagues, relatives, friends”, it added.

The committee said there was “evidence…of anxiety” in Person A’s witness statement from learning that Patel accessed her medical records.

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Patel said that he had “stopped accessing the medical records” in December 2021, about three months before he was contacted by the regulator.

But when he was first told about “concerns” by the GPhC in April 2022, Patel gave a false statement, according to the determination.

He later admitted this deceit, telling the committee that he had “panicked and lied”, it said. 

 

“Highly unlikely to repeat”

 

Nevertheless, the committee felt that Patel was a “candid and straightforward witness” who had shown “a high level of insight”.

Patel presented the committee with “extensive evidence” of his CPD activity, learning, counselling and reflection done in the years following the launch of the FtP process, the document said.

A reflective document acknowledged that his actions “may have affected the patients’ trust and confidence in the health care system, as well [affecting] as their self-esteem and well-being” and “disrespecting their dignity and autonomy”.

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The committee found that testimonials presented in support of Patel showed him to be “a trustworthy person who acts in a professional manner”.

It heard that he was “ashamed and embarrassed” about his actions and had “expressed his sincerest apologies” to the three people whose privacy he had “violated”.

While it said that Patel had brought the pharmacy profession into disrepute, the committee found that he would be “highly unlikely to repeat the misconduct”.

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They determined that his misconduct “related to a particular situation… and personally traumatic circumstances” and that he had “learned to handle his negative thoughts and emotions more appropriately”.

The committee found that “Patel can now be trusted to act with integrity”. 

 

“Breach of trust”

 

But despite his remedial work and positive testimonies, the committee noted that Patel’s “breach of trust” was not an “isolated instance of misconduct”. 

The committee said that it may have found that his practice was not currently impaired if there had been “only one or two instances”.

But Patel’s repeated access of confidential records was of “such seriousness” that it required a finding that his fitness to practise was impaired “on the wider public interest grounds only”, the committee found.

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The committee decided that its finding on his misconduct would be “adequately marked by a warning, provided that the warning is sufficiently clear and forceful” to provide a “public declaration” that his conduct was “unacceptable”.

It said that the public “needs to be able to trust” that pharmacy staff will only access their records “when clinically required and with consent”.

The warning will remain on the register for 12 months.

Read the determination in full here.

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