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Pharmacist struck off for attempted £12 Asda cardigan theft

Fitness to practise Locum pharmacist Neelu Sharma, registration number 2047478, has been struck off for attempting to exchange shoes she had not purchased for a £12 Asda cardigan.

Locum pharmacist Neelu Sharma, registration number 2047478, has been struck off the professional register for attempting to exchange shoes she had not purchased for a £12 Asda cardigan.

Ms Sharma took the shoes from the shelves of a Nuneaton Asda branch and tried to gain store credit to pay for the cardigan, the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) heard at a fitness-to-practise hearing on July 11.

The GPhC acknowledged that Ms Sharma had "an unblemished record as a pharmacist and as an upright person", but branded her denial and explanation of events as "inconsistent, manipulative and untruthful".

The GPhC branded the evidence of Neelu Sharma, registration number 2047478, "inconsistent, manipulative and untruthful"

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Ms Sharma was working as a locum for Asda in 2010 when she went into the clothing section of her branch and selected a cardigan and black shoes from the George range. She was already carrying a George bag containing children's slippers.

When Ms Sharma went to the counter, she said she wanted to exchange the shoes for the cardigan, but did not have the receipt. Ms Sharma asked if she could leave all the items behind the counter, including the children's slippers, until she completed her locum shift.

Afterwards, Ms Sharma went to pick up the items and told the staff member that she had submitted a receipt for the shoes earlier that day. Although the receipt could not be found, Ms Sharma received store credit for the shoes that paid for the cardigan.

But staff stopped Ms Sharma on her way out for failing to pay for the cardigan, which she denied. Ms Sharma was taken to the security room, where there was a "heated" exchange over her actions while they waited for the police to arrive.

Ms Sharma failed to offer a feasible explanation for her actions, but the GPhC accepted the stress of the situation meant there was a "clear potential for misunderstanding".

In her evidence to the GPhC, Ms Sharma claimed she had meant to return the children's slippers for credit, not the black shoes. She said she had only brought the black shoes to the counter to enquire whether there was a different size. Ms Sharma told the council she was tired after a difficult shift in the pharmacy and confused due to her thyroid condition. She claimed she was annoyed her receipt for the slippers had been lost and "just wanted to get home".

But the GPhC described her evidence as "inconsistent, manipulative and untruthful". The fitness-to-practise council ruled it was unlikely that two separate members of Asda staff would have misunderstood that Ms Sharma intended to exchange the children's slippers and not the black shoes.

CCTV footage showed that Ms Sharma did not check the size of the shoes when she took them off the shelf and the sales assistant said there had been no conversation that morning about wanting a different size.

The GPhC fitness-to-practise committee refuted Ms Sharma's claims of being confused, ruling that she had set out to conduct "a dishonest scam" to obtain store credit. The committee said it was concerned that Ms Sharma had persistently denied the allegations, which suggested a lack of remorse and insight.

The committee noted Ms Sharma was not currently working as a pharmacist, but ruled to strike her off the register to maintain standards and public confidence in the profession.

Read the full case here.

What do you make of the GPhC's ruling?

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Interleukin -2, Community pharmacist

She shouldnt have done it period......its heartbreaking but there you are..sad

Amanda Meyers, Practice nurse

Shocking that there seems insufficient evidence that she actually stole the cardigan. Pharmacists are tasked with a huge responsibility in looking after the community - is she really going to steal this. Also lets assume that she did, do you ruin her whole career and life for such a petty crime.

People have made more serious blunders of both a professional and character basis and still not be suspended.

Really what is the objective of the GPcH in these hearings. I read more and more nonsense and seriously wonder if the FpC is run by professionals with experience and knowledge or a group on monkeys.

Ruby Kaur, Non healthcare professional

This comment has been removed for legal reasons - C+D

Neil G, Locum pharmacist

I started commenting on this the other day, then a staff member closed down my screen. Which probably was good because it was rather cheeky and chances are...I could be struck off!!!!

The punishment does not fit the crime. Which begs the question, what is GPHC mission? Are they here for "us" or are they here for being public relations for multiples??

Years of service, not a blemish on her pharmacy profession and no doubt she's a human being.. So she made a mistake? And yes possibly she bent the truth.*

Surely what's in the publics best interest is that they get great health and medication advice?? Just saying..isn't that what we do?

Hope newly qualified learn the lesson here..if you're going to steal..don't do it where you work..I mean..don't do it at all.. Oh and MURs and NMS..thanks

Anyways hope it was a nice cardy.. It is going to get chilly in 6-7 weeks.

*This comment has been edited for legal reasons - C+D

Yacoob Maskeen, Community pharmacist

This pharmacist has surely made a huge blunder, and has wrecked her career and future. What a sad thing to do, as a professional person.
But striking her of f the register, was that a right thing to do? There been bigger cases than this, where pharmacists have remained on the register. Like I always said the GPhC are becoming quite good at striking people off the register, perhaps they get a big buzz out of it. Do you think the BMA would do the same to one of their Doctors in a similar situation, I think not. The public also expects high standards from Doctors too.

Danny TheRed, Community pharmacist

We are pressurised by the body corporate to complete MURs, many of which are meaningless and useless and all about the numbers and cost the tax payer £28 a pop, is this a worse fraud?? The lady was foolish, was her worst crime 'bad taste' an ADSA cardigan, I ask you?

How High?, Community pharmacist

Theft is theft but really?

Next it'll be 3 points on your driving license and "KABOOM" - You're out!

What about rehab, CBT, a supervision order?

Pee Watson, Medicine counter assistant

Was her career really worth a piece of clothing from ASDA. She knew what she was doing. We always assume that this is the first offence - or is it the first time she has been caught stealing.

geoffrey gardener, Community pharmacist

I am uneasy, there was no police prosecution in this case. As soon as the pharmacist enters the store she is confronted by security staff about parking in the staff car park. Despite giving a legitimate reason (like I am working in your pharmacy), the security officer dashes off to watch her on cctv, why? Did the security officer do this for everyone who parked in the staff car park, or did she just do this for people she didn't like the look of, or was this individual just picked out at random. Too easy for Asda staff to collaborate their storey (not saying they did, but it is possible) Not enough evidence in my opinion, especially as the defendant had an unblemished record going back decades

Helen Pinney, Pharmacy technician

I see a lot of knee-jerk reactions in the comments, but really it doesn't matter what she stole or what the value was. She committed a theft and as an "upright person" (and as an adult) I think we can assume she was well aware of the risks and the consequences. Cases like this result in the pharmacist being struck off so often that for her to wish to be treated otherwise is foolish.

N O, Pharmaceutical Adviser

What a shame, £12 in exchange for a career??? Well done GPhC, you have proven again that you are not bothered about the big firms putting these pharmacists under stress (and pay lot less) and then evade taxes in millions but, you want to strike someone off for £12. Hatts off to the great FtP team.

Baber Yaqub, Pharmacy

I hope She reflects on this and learns from the error of he actions.
I wonder whether the Profession will assist in her redemption and recovery to practicing Pharmacy, or she is an "untouchable." The Medical fraternity look after their fallen so well.
I wish her a speedy redemption and hopefully she will return as a wiser Pharmacist and member of society.

Super Locum,

Many pharmacists have been suspended for alot worse. Come on Struck off for this?

Amanda Meyers, Practice nurse

Its getting worse and I am seeing a lot of bias for certain genders and groups.

Leon The Apothecary, Student

So much time, energy and effort all down the drain for what...? A £12 Asda cardigan. Question is though, was the punishment suitable for the crime?

Small Pharm Owner, Other pharmacy staff

Why O Why would you do something so petty knowing you we're risking your whole career!?!!

Stephen Eggleston, Community pharmacist

Whether this was a confused pharmacist at the end of her shift or a thief and fraudster, it looks like a professional career has been blighted by a foolish action over a trivial amount. I never understand why people will take the risk - unless it is just for the thrill of it

Gerry Diamond, Primary care pharmacist

Oh dear what a waste!

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