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Pharmacist suspended for 'plundering' patient records

The GPhC heard that Mr Dhanju initially accessed the records of his father out of concern for his health

Harkanwarjit Singh Dhanju, registration number 2049941, inappropriately accessed the records of 31 individuals over 11 months

A former Sainsbury’s pharmacy manager has been suspended from the professional register for 12 months for “plundering patient confidentiality” by accessing the medical records of family members and colleagues.

Harkanwarjit Singh Dhanju, registration number 2049941, viewed 31 patient records outside of his professional remit while working part-time for the local NHS trust, the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) heard at a fitness-to-practise hearing that began on November 9.

Mr Dhanju initially viewed the records of his father in 2012 due to concerns about his health and fell down a “slippery slope” into accessing irrelevant records on 62 occasions over an 11-month period, the GPhC heard. He was convicted of breaching the Data Protection Act in 2014.

The GPhC accepted that Mr Dhanju had shown “genuine remorse” for his actions and undertaken “extensive CPD exercises” since. It also deemed there was “little, if any, likelihood” he would repeat his misconduct.

"Repeatedly breached confidentiality"

Mr Dhanju was conducting medicines management reviews of patients in care homes for the primary care trust (PCT) in March 2012, when the first recorded instance of his transgressions took place. On the evening of March 20, he accessed the records of his family members, as well as a doctor and his wife.

He “repeatedly” breached confidentiality by continuing to access records until February 2013, when a practice manager at one of the local surgeries noticed he was viewing records outside of his remit, the GPhC heard. Mr Dhanju initially denied any misconduct, before admitting to it “later the same day”, which prompted an investigation.

Mr Dhanju resigned from his position at the PCT and also gave up his job as a pharmacy manager at Sainsbury’s “as soon as his offences came to light”, the GPhC heard.

In November 2014, Mr Dhanju was charged and convicted of breaching the Data Protection Act, to which he pleaded guilty.

The GPhC’s fitness-to-practise committee noted that Mr Dhanju said he was “thoroughly ashamed” of his actions and had produced “an impressive number of testimonials”, largely from practising pharmacists. His colleagues said they would be “fully prepared to employ or continue to employ” Mr Dhanju, who they described as “trustworthy”.

The regulator also took into account that Mr Dhanju held a previously unblemished record and had not exploited patient data or, "as far as we know", revealed it to anyone else.

Health concerns

Mr Dhanju said he had initially accessed the records of his family members because he was concerned about their health, and had looked at the records of medical colleagues and their families because he wanted to “learn from” their handling of “a variety of ailments”.

The regulator called into question his “incredible” motives for accessing the records of fellow healthcare professionals and their families. Curiousity was "hardly sufficient explanation of why he wanted to know all about the health and medical complaints of doctors, doctors’ wives and doctors’ daughters", it said.

It also highlighted that Mr Dhanju very quickly started accessing these records after looking up the details of his father. “If there was a ‘slippery slope’, the registrant was sliding down it at breakneck speed,” the committee argued.

It ruled to suspend him for 12 months with a review hearing at the end of the period, at which Mr Dhanju would need to give a fuller insight into his actions.

Read the full determination here.


What do you make of the ruling?

We want to hear your views, but please express them in the spirit of a constructive, professional debate. For more information about what this means, please click here to see our community principles and information




David Kent, Community pharmacist

A friend has just told me that their medication turned up after it was sent to P2U by the GP without their consent.

London Locum, Locum pharmacist

P2U are as good as dammit our regulators anyway. Good luck with the complaint.

Mi Wa, Community pharmacist

I can only imagine the number of breaches that happen on a daily basis in practices. I don't think that the prescription clerk that was working at Lidl only a few months before is an avid follower of privacy rules. If the defendant had challenged the practice manager to openly check all access to records then I bet the matter would have gone no further.

Gurjepal Pannu, Community pharmacist

*This comment has been deleted for breaching the Community Principles - C+D

Dodo pharmacist, Community pharmacist

Did he sell the records to an Australian scam lottery company and did any of those patients lose out financially as a result? No . He also only looked at a dozen or so, whereas pharmacy2u sold 21000. Their punishment had better be in proportion to this one.

Ben Merriman, Community pharmacist

So a 31 x (£130,000/21,000 patients=£6.19) = £191.89 fine it is. Fair's fair...

Hackney Drug Dealer, Community pharmacist

Plunder? Really? plun·der ˈpləndər/Submit verb gerund or present participle: plundering steal goods from (a place or person), typically using force and in a time of war or civil disorder. "looters moved into the disaster area to plunder stores" synonyms: pillage, loot, rob, raid, ransack, despoil, strip, ravage, lay waste, devastate, sack, rape "they plundered the countryside" steal (goods), typically using force and in a time of disorder. synonyms: steal, purloin, thieve, seize, pillage; embezzle "money plundered from pension funds" take material from (artistic or academic work) for one's own purposes. "we shall plunder related sciences to assist our research"

JOHN MUNDAY, Locum pharmacist

I have mixed feelings about this. I accept that IG is an issue but not nearly as important as H&S. So what if someone sees your address etc etc. This chap should not have been accessing those records but it was just being nosey. He wasn't 'trawling' by definition - a trawler isn't much of trawler if it only catches 32 fish especially when they throw them back into the sea! He was being nosey. He did not gain in any way (as far as I know). He did not sell this information for profit yet he paid a high price for this.In fact I think he has a good case to appeal this 'sentence' on the grounds that was way over the top for the offence and very poorly judged. Talk Talk 'lost' millions of customer details which will cost the customers dearly at some point - has anyone been done yet? Oh, because their systems were so weak they were victims?Oh..ok. Pharmacy2U SOLD the data for profit and what happened there nothing much. That's ok then. I feel for Harkanwarjit.

Steve Freedman, Primary care pharmacist

The roll out of SCR is going to be really important to bring pharmacy within primary care. The training stresses the need for patient confidentiality and there are safeguards built in to the system. Let's not be negative about it just because of the activities of one thoughtless pharmacist.

London Locum, Locum pharmacist

GPhC are spineless cowards.

Niall Murray, Superintendent

Locum pharmacist, locum pharmacist and all pharmacists, it is not the gphc who are the spineless cowards it is us, yes all of us. I do of course understand what you meant but my God in the wake of pharmacy2u the longer we sit back and accept the ordanances and edicts of the gphc the longer the perishing will continue. Yes, the individual did wrong but unless we recognise that as a profession it is us/we as pharmacists who own the gphc and as such we need to regulate the regulator. I can scarcely contain my fury over reading this. The law is an ass and we must collaborate on a front that represents sense, egality, balance and representative of the majority. It remains no longer good enough for us to simply upload posts & threads citing our condemnations and aversions we must seek new horizons about what is best for the majority. I would dearly love to hear from anyone who wishes to seek change from both gphc and pharmsoc.

Chris Locum, Locum pharmacist

Absolutely right Niall. I can think of the many positive actions of individuals but collectively as a profession we are absolutely gutless. I have seen it over 25 years myself and it will probably never change. The day we lost the ability to own a pharmacy en masse was a day which began to accelerate the situation we experience now. The Government attacked buy to let after its supposed U turns on the budget but the answer is simple : it is a soft target to attack. It is not about social justice or fair play. We are also a soft target and have been viewed as such - it can be seen with the changes in pharmacy with new contract and the payment reductions and it will certainly not stop with whinging. We became a cog in the machine and I fear change that is meaningful will prove difficult. The payment reductions which have yet to come will bring changes we will not like, but we are just likely to keep walking the plank

Paul Miyagi, Information Technology

Well said Niall. Everything you say is correct. Pharmacists don't stick together like other professions but let the multi nationals , et al, " beat them up ". Well, what do you propose next ??? I'm sure many would agree with you but are too frightened to say !!!

Paul Miyagi, Information Technology

Well shouldn,t have done it , nosey git.

N O, Pharmaceutical Adviser

Just wait till the SCR is rolled out in the community pharmacies........... You might have 10 cases a day !!!

Peter Badham, Superintendent Pharmacist

I would like to ask , What is the GPC doing about Pharmacy2u ? The company has been fouled guilty of a very serious breach , awarded a small fine of £6 per patient , and no removals from the register It seems to me the worse the crime some ones commits the lower the penalty

Call Me Cycnical, Senior Management

Seems like a nosey bugger but not much else. Shame it had to go this far, but the rules are the rules. Hey what's happening to Pharmacy2U? Has any of their pharmacists been struck off?

Kieran Eason, Superintendent Pharmacist

" the records of 31 individuals" - remind me how many pharmacy2u sold again??

C A, Community pharmacist

21,000 wasn't it? Obviously this pharmacists problem is that he lacks a few 000s

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