David Reissner, partner at law firm Charles Russell Speechlys, said SCR access may have to be audited in the future to prevent the inappropriate use of patient records. This kind of access “may not always be easy to detect”, he told C+D yesterday (November 23).
If SCR abuse is found to be common, fitness-to-practise committees could impose “more severe sanctions" to act as a deterrent, he added.
It is “not possible” to tell whether inappropriate SCR access is common because “we only know about the pharmacists or technicians who have been caught”, Mr Reissner pointed out.
Mr Reissner made the comments in light of a recent fitness-to-practise case in which a hospital pharmacy technician was suspended for four months for accessing the patient records of people close to her, "without good reason" for doing so.
Laura Louise Claire Smith (née Chilton), registration number 5012055, accessed the SCR of one of her relatives and a person she had “previously been close to”, the General Pharmaceutical Council’s (GPhC) fitness-to-practise committee heard on October 4.
Ms Smith was working as a pharmacy technician at Good Hope Hospital in Birmingham when she accessed the records in 2015, the GPhC heard. She “readily admitted” to these actions when questioned by her employer and “demonstrated remorse and regret from the very beginning of the investigation”, it noted.
The regulator accepted that Ms Smith’s judgement was impaired “because of very significant stresses and turmoil in her personal life”. There was no evidence that her actions were motivated “by malice”, and she had been honest about the situation from the beginning, it said.
She had – "of her own initiative" – also apologised to her employer, colleagues and the two people whose records she accessed, the GPhC noted. Both patients had forgiven her for this, it added.
But the GPhC stressed that Ms Smith had accessed “sensitive medical information…deliberately [and] without good reason”. It said the public must be reassured that patient confidentiality is taken seriously by the profession, and decided to suspend Ms Smith for four months.
Read the full determination here.