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‘Ashamed’ pharmacy technician struck off for stealing oxycodone

A pharmacy technician has been removed from the register after stealing controlled drugs “for her own personal benefit” and making false entries onto official records, the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) has said. 

Sarah-Jane Forrest, registration number 5001693, was struck off the register for “stealing controlled drugs” from two branches of Scottish chain Omnicare Pharmacy and “for falsifying patient records”, a GPhC fitness-to-practise (FtP) committee heard via remote video link on January 29-31.

The committee heard that Forrest removed 56 oxycodone tablets from Omnicare’s Queensferry Road Branch “on or around” December 22 2020, as well as February 2 and 18 2021, and that she had “removed [56 30mg Oxycodone tablets] from the Tollcross Branch” on March 11 2021.

Read more: 'Trustworthy' locum warned over repeated unauthorised records access

It also heard that Forrest falsified a patient's records during this time period, as well as making false entries on the controlled drug (CD) register.

The regulator accepted that Forrest had “had worked at the pharmacy for some 10 years and there had never previously been any issues with her work or conduct” and that “there was no evidence of actual harm to patients”.

But it stressed that “there had been an element of sophisticated planning” in stealing the drugs, and that “there was evidence [she] had used” oxycodone “during the first month of her misconduct”.

 

“I am disgusted with myself”

 

The committee heard that on March 25 2021 a manager at the pharmacy’s Tollcross branch informed the superintendent pharmacist that there were some “controlled drug discrepancies”.

A manual entry had been made on a patient’s record “without a prescription being issued by the GP…with no corresponding barcode”, the GPhC said.

The superintendent found CCTV footage showing Forrest picking up a box of what “appeared” to be oxycodone before making an entry on the CD record on the computer, the regulator heard.

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After asking the registrant to attend a meeting about the footage, the superintendent received an email from Forrest, which admitted “it was me that did it and I am so ashamed that I can’t come in”.

The email continued: “I put the money the drugs cost in the till and still can’t believe I would do that and you will never know how sorry I am.” Forrest added that she “always felt like we were like a wee family and I am disgusted with myself”.

“Omnicare has been my life for 10 years and I am so so sorry and wish nothing more than to turn back the clock and never make such a stupid mistake,” she said.

“I have now lost absolutely everything,” she added.

The FtP document revealed that on April 2 2021 Forrest “submitted her resignation”.

 

“My job was the only thing I was really good at”

 

The committee heard that after receiving the email on March 17 2021, the superintendent visited Forrest at her home with a colleague, where the registrant admitted to have also “taken drugs from the Queensferry Road Branch”.

During a disciplinary meeting on 1 April 2021 regarding the missing drugs and false patient entries,  Forrest said she took “full responsibility” for her actions. However, she couldn’t remember patient names or anything like that” as the “whole thing [was] a blur”.

When asked why she had stolen from the pharmacy “multiple times” she replied “I did it the first time, panicked…in a way I think I wanted to get caught”, the committee heard.

She added that she had thought of speaking to her colleagues about the incidents but “couldn’t do it”. “My job was the only thing I was really good at,” she said.

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

The FtP documents revealed that hair sample analysis dated October 18 2021 from a senior scientist showed that she had used oxycodone “within or prior to the investigated time period covered by the earliest hair section tested”.

The scientist said that “the level of oxycodone detected is in the low range when compared to other positive samples we have tested” and that it “was not detected in the three most recent sections tested” indicating that Forrest was no longer using the drug.

 

Acted “dishonestly on four occasions”

 

The committee acknowledged that Forrest had showed she was “ashamed” and “disgusted” with herself, which indicated she understood the seriousness of her actions.

It added that “the registrant had no previous disciplinary history” and “had made admissions to her employer”.

But “although she had stated to her employers that she wanted to be found out, it was clear from her calculated conduct that she had taken carefully planned steps to make sure she concealed what she was doing,” it added.

Read more: Pharmacist struck off after death threats, harassment and cocaine use

The committee found that “the registrant had acted dishonestly on four occasions over a period of three months”.

It added that she presented “an actual risk to patients”. “It was quite possible that another pharmacy professional could have looked” at the falsified patient records “and refused future medication,” it noted

“Instead of safeguarding [controlled drugs], the registrant had stolen them from her employer for her own personal benefit. This is extremely serious misconduct,” the committee noted.

The regulator found that her fitness to practice was “impaired” and decided to strike Forrester off the record, with interim measures.

Read the determination in full here.

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