Recent Prosecutions - Reminders to Pharmacists

Readers may be aware of the outcome of the Australian Health Practitioner Regulatory Agency’s (AHPRA’s) prosecutions of individuals who were working as pharmacists whilst unregistered and the Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC’s) prosecution of a pharmacist proprietor at the New South Wales Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT). The outcome of each prosecution serve as timely reminders to pharmacists and pharmacy proprietors of their professional obligations.

Registration renewal

Firstly, pharmacists’ registration expires on 30 November annually and you have until 31 December 2019 to renew your registration with the Pharmacy Board of Australia (Board). If you do not renew by then, your registration will lapse and your name will be removed from the national register.

It is an offence under the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (NSW) (National Law) to work as a pharmacist whilst unregistered. It is similarly an offence for a person or corporation to claim or hold another person out as being registered as a health practitioner under the National Law. Both offences attract a maximum penalty per offence of $60,000.00 and/or 3 years imprisonment for an individual, and $120,000.00 for a body corporate.

Pharmacists proprietors

Secondly, pharmacy proprietors have obligations arising from the conduct of their pharmacy business. In the above mentioned prosecution at NCAT, the proprietor was found guilty of professional misconduct and in its decision, NCAT sets out that:

  1. a proprietor can allocate tasks to staff but cannot devolve the proprietor of the ultimate responsibility for all the activities which are carried on within the pharmacy. 
  2. the responsibility of ownership extends to ensure that at all relevant times, suitable procedures, protocols and validation are in place to eliminate professional misconduct in the pharmacy.
  3. proprietorship responsibility is not capable of being discharged by holding personal belief in the integrity and professionalism of one’s employee or partner. The proprietor must assure himself or herself that employed pharmacists comply with legislation, standards and guidelines.
  4. co- proprietors have a professional and personal responsibility for the day to day running of that pharmacy or those pharmacies, and to ensure that the proper procedures and protocols were followed at each of the pharmacies owned.
  5. co- proprietors have overriding professional responsibilities in the day to day management of one or more pharmacies whether they are physically and regularly present in each or either pharmacy or not.

Pharmacy proprietors are encouraged to review the Board’s guidelines for proprietor pharmacists and more broadly, all pharmacists should take note to review the relevant code and guidelines published on the Board’s website.

On a final note and in conjunction with the renewal period, the Pharmacy Council strongly advises that pharmacy proprietors ensure that each pharmacist in their employ are registered by the Board. Details of individuals currently registered by the Board are publicly available on the national register which you can access on the AHPRA website.