A former Boots branch manager in Glasgow has been suspended by Britain’s General Pharmaceutical Council over falsely registering patients for Scotland’s minor ailments service.
Asif Alam blamed target pressures for his decision to “stupidly and naively” falsely register patients for the MAS between 2011 and 2013.
The MAS is a Scottish-only service under which patients register to receive it at their community pharmacy. Under the terms of service, eligible patients are able to access the service free of charge.
Community pharmacies are paid for their MAS registrations depending upon the number of patients registered for the service by the last day of each month.
Alam’s activities came to light following an analysis of MAS registration patterns across Scotland covering the period October 2009 to September 2012.
“NHS Scotland Counter Fraud Services (CFS) identified specific areas of concern in relation to registrations from the Boots pharmacy at Cathcart Road,” observed the GPhC at Alam’s hearing.
“The reasons why those particular registrations were identified as suspicious included the following: 51% of registrations occurred within a minute of each other; there were significant similarities between the signatures of the patients’ representatives; the relatively high number of registrations on each of the key dates, and in all but three of the forms submitted the signature was that of a patient’s representative rather than the patient,” according to a witness statement.
Alam said that during his first year performance review in 2011, he was informed that he was underperforming.
He said he was told that if he could not achieve targets, his line manager would “get someone who could”.
He said he struggled to manage the pressures of the job and pressure from his line manager, and decided to create a number of MAS registrations which were completed without having obtained the consent of the patient, or complying with other requirements set out in the MAS specifications and detailed in the relevant Boots standard operating procedure.
The pharmacy was overpaid as a result by about £700.
Alam told the investigation that he had not acted for financial gain, but to “make the shop look better and please the area manager”.
“I didn’t know it was fraud, I thought it was a Boots numbers thing,” he told the investigation.
“I did not think through my actions,” he admitted. “Even when I involved my staff members, they just took it on as a targets game.
“We were constantly being questioned on targets, such as prescription collection service (PCS), free repeat prescription service (FRPS), advantage card sign-ups, customer care survey reports, pushing promotions, etc. Everybody felt pressure.”
The GPhC accepted that Alam had insight into his conduct and that it was unlikely to reoccur, but suspended him for nine months.