Former Boots manager suspended for falsifying forms

Asif Alam, 2070147, felt under "considerable pressure" to meet targets, the GPhC heard
Asif Alam, registration 2070147, blamed target pressures for his "stupid" decision to falsely register patients for the minor ailments service, the GPhC heard

The former manager of a Boots branch in Glasgow has been suspended for nine months for fraudulently registering patients for the minor ailments service.

Asif Alam, registration number 2070147, admitted to “stupidly and naively” falsely registering patients for Scotland's minor ailments service (MAS) between 2011 and 2013, the General Pharmaceutical Council’s (GPhC) fitness-to-practise committee heard at a hearing on June 8.

The regulator accepted that Mr Alam felt “under considerable pressure” to meet targets at the branch and had an otherwise unblemished career.

But it stressed that Mr Alam had acted “dishonestly” in trying to “relieve” the pressure he was under.

“Underperforming”

Mr Alam had been working as a manager at a Boots branch in Cathcart Road, Glasgow for a year in 2011 when he was told in a review that he was “underperforming”, the regulator heard. Mr Alam told the GPhC that he was informed that if he could not achieve his targets, the branch would “get someone who could”, the GPhC heard.

Mr Alam decided to falsify MAS registrations to reduce the pressure put on him, he said. “I didn’t know it was fraud, I thought it was a Boots numbers thing,” he told the GPhC.

According to submissions made to the GPhC, a Boots pharmacy of a "certain size" would be expected to have a certain level of patients registered for the minor ailments scheme, the regulator noted.

“Suspicious” MAS registrations

The following year, NHS Scotland Counter Fraud Services identified “specific areas of concern” relating to MAS registrations at Mr Alam’s branch, the regulator heard.

The amount pharmacies in Scotland are paid for delivering MAS depends on how many patients are registered for the service. The regulator heard that Mr Alam’s falsified MAS registrations had earned his branch £700, which Boots subsequently paid back to the NHS.

The MAS registrations at Mr Alam’s pharmacy were considered “suspicious” because 51% occurred within a minute of each other and there were “significant similarities” between the signatures of the patients’ representatives on the forms, the GPhC heard.

The investigations led to Mr Alam, who was interviewed by Boots on two occasions and then subjected to a disciplinary hearing, which resulted in his dismissal.

Subsequent career

Since his dismissal from Boots, Mr Alam has been working as a locum pharmacist, the GPhC heard. His current employer said the allegations against Mr Alam felt "totally out of character" and did not "square with his personality".

Mr Alam told the regulator that he will now “only work for people who will not put me under the same pressure”. He has worked for “most other” companies since leaving Boots, and independent pharmacies do no pressure staff in the same way as the multiples, he claimed.

“Constant questioning” over targets

Mr Alam told the regulator that he regrets his actions, and now realises that he should have informed his line manager of the pressures he was under rather than acting dishonestly. “We were constantly being questioned on targets,” he told the GPhC.

The GPhC accepted that Mr Alam had shown insight into his conduct, had reported the case to the regulator himself and had remedied his failings. It stressed that there is “no real risk” of his actions reoccurring, and that he had “not set out” to defraud the NHS.

But it said that Mr Alam’s actions were “too serious” to justify giving him a warning, and ruled to suspend him for nine months.

Read the full determination here.

 

What else did Mr Alam say about his time at Boots?

"Every day I was left with a list of problems to sort out from the pharmacists [who had worked on] previous days. On top of completing the work on my days in, I also had to train a dispenser who was starting out in this role two weeks after I had started.

"I worked very hard to complete the day-to-day tasks, making sure patients were given correct and safe prescriptions, giving advice and supporting staff learning.

"However, I was also getting numerous e-mails... to complete several tasks... such as reaching targets, implementing planograms, etc. I would struggle to try and fit these tasks into my daily routine.” 

A targets game

“I did not think through my actions [falsifying records]. [My team] were constantly being questioned on targets, such as prescription collection service, free repeat prescription service, advantage card sign-ups, customer care survey reports, pushing promotions, etc. Everybody felt pressure.” 


Read Boots' response to Mr Alam's allegations here.
 

What do you make of the ruling?

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29 Comments

Majida Sabir, Superintendent Pharmacist

I think Boots should be responsible for this as the remuneration of services was paid to Boots. They should be fined

Valentine Trodd, Community pharmacist

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-3651295/Why-check-pills-chemist-Candid-confessions-High-Street-pharmacist.html

Why you MUST check the pills you get from the chemist: Candid confessions of a High Street pharmacist

James Mac, Community pharmacist

thanks for posting

Farm Assistant, Community pharmacist

When are Boots going to be punished for falsifying just about everything.

Brian Austen, Senior Management

There might also be grounds for public disclosure by the employee (whistle blowing). If this starts happening and the regulator ignores it they will be outed as failing to carry out their duties.

Brian Austen, Senior Management

Stress and ill health as a result of an employer exerting unreasonable pressure on an employee is a very serious matter. If an employee goes to their employer and complains and the employer fails to practicably try and address the situation and continues to ignore the stress and ill health they can get themselves into a lot of bother under employment law, especially if the employee had to leave as a result and subsequently brought a claim for constructive dismissal.

John Randell, Non Pharmacist Branch Manager

WEAK WEAK rhetoric...this is why EU folk  get the jobs beacuse they dont cry as much...boohoo stress/ill health...you need a thick skin to be in this game...even thicker if you plan on bieng in it for the next thirty years

Underrated Professional, Locum pharmacist

THICK SKIN.. DON'T CRY BOOHOO...equates to do MURs at the counter(not consultation room, that would take far too long...) select patients with a max of 3 items or less only, select high risk drugs.etc for the first year get your 400. After that repeat the same folks every year eg. Hello ... Any problems with your meds... remember what I told you last year...!!!! You can survive the next 30 years ha ha...

Brian Austen, Senior Management

It seems to me that many pharmacists get themselves into this sort of situation if they either choose not to seek help or don't know where to seek help. Does the PDA support pharmacists that wish to bring a grievance against their employer, with the pharmacist of course continuing to comply with their contract terms? If Boots start to be taken to employment tribunals and the potential costs involved with that, they might start to change the way they treat employees.

Ian Kemp, Community pharmacist

Got it in one with the phrase ' with the pharmacist of course continuing to comply with their contract terms '.   PDA could not afford to try to defend a pharmacist who has so obviously acted fraudulently and wouldn't have a chance of getting them off with much less than a 9 month suspension.

Young, Manager

As usual Boots deny any pressure....GPhc should get on with discipling these companies for the pressures they apply

Freelance Chemist, Pre-reg Pharmacist

how would they discipline them? what sanctions can they apply to them?

Gerry Diamond, Primary care pharmacist

Oh dear, Mr Aslam has strong mitigating circumstances, when anyone was 'performance managed', it was usually managed out the door. These 'performance management' were nothing more that ' thumb screws and a hot poker' exercise. I remembered representing a Boots pharmacist who was 'performance managed' and got sacked. I worked part time and went to represent her, and managed to get her reinstated. I said that I was so glad that I worked part time, as for full time pharmacists the job was unbareable for most and ok for the few.

Ian Kemp, Community pharmacist

Agree with most of what you say Gerry, but even you might have had difficulty saving Mr Aslam who ' didn't know it was fraud'.

John Randell, Non Pharmacist Branch Manager

couldnt cut it as pharmacy manager

the grass is not greener all multiples are like this not just boots...this is what it means to be a pharmacy manager.if you cant handle the HEAT GET OUT OF THE KITCHEN....

Paul Miyagi, Legal

Yes its strange as always how Boots takes the moral high ground yet again , there seems to be an anomoly here , almost laughable , if it wasn't so serious. So if Boots are so righteous, perhaps they should return the " fraudulent money" that their "fraudulent pharmacists" have acquired for them!!!. 

Janet NQ, Community pharmacist

Sounds too familiar! Same situation when i was store based! On top of all that had to manage Chs too! Luckily escaped the hell! Since then there is no pharmacist that can stay in that store for more than 6 months! They drain you to the last drop of sweat!

Clive Hodgson, Community pharmacist

I have enormous sympathy for Mr Alam. The individual Pharmacist stands little chance when matched against the interests of certain Corporate Pharmacy entities and “their” GPhC.

Bal Singh, Locum pharmacist

U think the regulator needs to connect the common trends here maybe?

Boots..... Targets..... Pressure.....

b t, Manager

One wonders why individual unrelated pharmacists continually get reprimanded yet the common element being a common employer is ignored.

Freelance Chemist, Pre-reg Pharmacist

Suprise suprise, BOOTS again!!!  Why wont the GPhC do somehting about BOOTS??!!!

Bal Singh, Locum pharmacist

I've been asking who we can report the regulator to?

Pill Counter, Pharmacy

The Guardian. They seem to listen.

Freelance Chemist, Pre-reg Pharmacist

you can report them to the pofessional standards authority, tel : 020 7389 8030 and to your local MP

Meera Sharma, Community pharmacist

All done, hope they are able to do better than the GPhC!

Yuna Mason, Administration & Support

The professional standards authority recently ranked the GPhC very highly in a performance review. You might also want to send your complaint to the members of the health select committee. http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/health-committee/membership/

Yuna Mason, Administration & Support

PS MPs are busy people so the most effective way might be to contact all of the committee members. Also they are in different parties so the politics may potentially come in to play. They're occupied with the referendum now too so if you don't hear anything it could be worth emailing again in a couple of weeks - though if Brexit happens it will be chaotic anyway.

Freelance Chemist, Pre-reg Pharmacist

thank you i will be calling them tomorrow i would advise others to do the same.

David Moore, Locum pharmacist

And possibly The Guardian.

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