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.
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.
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