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Bolton locum pharmacist receives three-month suspension for workplace sexual misconduct

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The Fitness-to-Practise Committee of the General Pharmaceutical Council has issued a three-month suspension to Mohammed Roohul Haque (Reg No: 2226084), a locum pharmacist, due to incidents of workplace sexual misconduct.

According to the determination document issued by the regulatory body, Haque undertook the position of a locum pharmacist at Hollowood Chemists on July 12. It was during this period that he encountered the dispenser (referred to as the “complainant”), a 40-year-old co-worker at the pharmacy, for the first instance. Following this initial meeting, he proceeded to engage in making explicit sexual comments.

During the lunch break of the pharmacy’s second dispenser, Haque asked the dispenser, who had lodged the complaint, to review photographs displayed on his mobile phone, depicting renovations being carried out at his residence. The initial images focused on the ongoing renovation activities. However, he later switched to displaying a full-screen photograph of his erect penis, the document said.

Despite the fact that the dispenser promptly distanced herself, Haque persisted in discussing the photograph with her. He went so far as to apologise, and even asked if she had managed to closely observe the picture.

On the following day, July 13, 2021, the dispenser filed a formal complaint regarding Haque’s misconduct with Hollowood’s superintendent pharmacist. She also indicated her intention to report the incident to the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC), as mentioned in the document.

The case hearing took place from July 24 to 26.

Haque conceded to displaying a photograph of his erect penis to the dispenser, along with making remarks concerning her physical appearance. He acknowledged that his actions were inappropriate. However, he labelled the comments as banter and contended that he had unintentionally accessed the explicit picture, as detailed in the document.

The Committee, however, found Haque’s explanation less convincing given the case’s facts. He stated his comments were aimed at establishing a positive working relationship, but this contradicted evidence that he spent most of the morning on his mobile phone rather than assisting in the dispensary, as noted by the Committee.

It also took into consideration the Council’s publication “Good decision-making” (revised March 2017) to understand the concept of ‘fitness to practise’. Paragraph 2.11 reads: “A pharmacy professional is ‘fit to practise’ when they have the skills, knowledge, character, behaviour and health needed to work as a pharmacist…safely and effectively. In practical terms, this means maintaining appropriate standards of competence, demonstrating good character, and also adhering to the principles of good practice set out in your various standards, guidance and advice.”

The Committee reached the conclusion that Haque had intentionally displayed the image with the aim of seeking sexual satisfaction or pursuing a sexual connection. It further stated that he had misused his professional status, given that the individual impacted by his misconduct was a subordinate.

It further noted that Haque’s misconduct was tempered by the fact that it occurred on a single day and did not involve any physical contact. As outlined in its decision, this placed the sexual misconduct at the less severe end of the spectrum.

The Committee found the allegations amounted to misconduct and chose to suspend Haque from the registry for three months, as detailed in the document. It also noted that a brief suspension period sufficed to signify the gravity of the registrant’s inappropriate sexual behaviour, given his authentic understanding, remorse, and meaningful actions taken to address the matter.

Meanwhile, a noticeable shift in community pharmacy work patterns is occurring, with a greater reliance on locum pharmacists in the staffing model, according to 2022 Community Pharmacy Workforce Survey by NHS England. While employed pharmacists decreased by 16 per cent from 12,774 in 2021 to 10,943 in 2022, locum pharmacists increased by 26 per cent from 4,297 in 2021 to 5,477 in 2022. This trend persists even though locum pharmacists, on average, work fewer hours.

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