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Technician suspended for dispensing errors and assault

The GPhC noted that Mr Ashton felt "pressurised to complete work"

Hospital pharmacy technician Craig Adam Ashton, 5020369, received a caution for assault and made 14 errors in two years, the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) heard

A hospital pharmacy technician has been suspended for 12 months for assaulting a “vulnerable woman” and making repeated dispensing and labelling errors.

Craig Adam Ashton, registration number 5020369, made 14 errors in two years while working as a pharmacy technician at the Royal Derby Hospital, the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) heard at a fitness-to-practise hearing on June 8. Mr Ashton was also cautioned by the police for assault in May 2012, it heard.

The GPhC accepted that Mr Ashton had been under “particular stress” in his personal life at the time he made the errors. It also noted that the assault had been an "isolated incident".

But the regulator stressed that while no actual harm had come to patients as a result of the errors, there was a “clear risk” that patients could have come to harm if the "serious" errors had not been detected.

Dispensing errors

Mr Ashton had been working as a technician at the hospital for seven years before he made the first of 14 errors in August 2010. These included dispensing half the prescribed dose of blood pressure treatment ramipril, dispensing magnesium instead of the antibiotic teicoplanin, two instances of dispensing medicine with the wrong person's name and four instances of labelling medicines with the wrong directions, the regulator heard.

During a series of formal and informal performance management reviews, Mr Ashton told his manager he felt he had “trusted the labeller too much” and acknowledged he “needed to slow down and not rush to keep up with his workload”, the GPhC heard. Mr Ashton also claimed "difficulties at home" had been affecting his work, and later cited that “the pressure of being managed for his errors was making him worried about losing his job”. 

Mr Ashton took two months off "as a result of personal issues” from December 2011. Despite claiming to have “put his external issues behind him”, he continued to make errors once he returned to work and was dismissed from his position in November 2012, the GPhC heard.

Caution for assault

Mr Ashton also received a police caution in May 2012 for assaulting a woman the previous December, the GPhC heard. He had been "out drinking all day" with colleagues for a Christmas party, and the assault had caused "actual harm" to the victim, who was in a "vulnerable condition" at the time, the GPhC heard.

The regulator noted Mr Ashton had demonstrated remorse and had "admitted the offence at the earliest opportunity". There had been "no repetition of any similar behaviour", it said.

But the GPhC stressed that the assault had brought the profession into disrepute and the attack could have resulted in "consequences much more serious than they were”.

The regulator noted that he had not worked in a pharmacy setting since his dismissal, and was currently employed in the hospital’s medical records department, where he had recently been promoted.

The GPhC said there was "potential" for Mr Ashton to "remedy" his dispensing errors, and noted that he wished to return to work as a technician. But he had not provided a "coherent plan" for how he would do this, it said.

It ruled that a 12-month suspension was sufficient time for him to do this by seeking further training and revalidation. The length of the suspension was also necessary to "reflect the seriousness" of the police caution, it added.

Read the full determination here.


What do you make of the ruling?

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Lancelot Spratt, Accuracy checking technician

It appears from the determination that this matter was not referred to the council until January 2015, hence the delay in being heard. The technician didn't come to the hearing, nor was he represented. He hasn't worked as a technician for over two years and although he has expressed a wish to return to a technician role he has made no attempts to do so. In view of the frequency of his errors, and the fact that he was under supervision and training for over two years yet still made further mistakes suggests that he isn't in a fit state to do the job. I think a suspension was the only decision that could have been made.

Stephen Eggleston, Community pharmacist

I have not read the determination so do not want to comment on the decision. However, I am very concerned this all happened almost 3 years ago and has only now come to a conclusion. I hope the GPhC are reviewing processes to enable a faster resolution of such cases

Leon The Apothecary, Student

One has to wonder when the timescale is so far apart, is it effective?

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