‘Your fall from grace is complete.’

tribunal hearing legal case

A Welsh pharmacist has been struck off the register after he altered more than 1,500 scripts in a $137,000 fraud

A General Pharmaceutical Committee Fitness to Practise Committee Principal Hearing heard that Welsh pharmacist Michael Lloyd had been convicted, in October 2019, of offenses of dishonestly making false representation to make gain for self/another or cause loss to other/expose other to risk.

Mr Lloyd had been a pharmacist since 1990, and along with two brothers, was the director of a company which owned a chain of pharmacies, including the Talbot Pharmacy in Talbot Green.

In November 2017, it was alleged that he had endorsed NHS prescription forms claiming that he had dispensed a more expensive item such as liquid medicines or dispersible tablets when instead he actually dispensed a cheaper alternative, such as tablets or capsules.

The period investigated ran from April 2014 to January 2018, and the matter was originally referred to NHS Counter Fraud Service (Wales).

“It was stated in Court that concerns were raised relating to the pharmacy’s prescriptions for medication used, amongst others, for the treatment of dementia,” the Committee noted.

“Over 1,500 prescriptions were identified as part of the fraud, to the value of £76,475 (AUD$137,572).

“It was confirmed, as part of the investigation, that the actual cost of the medicines was £4,178 (AUD$7,516) and the total claimed by the Registrant was £80,653 (AUD$145,088).

“The Registrant had carried out the fraud by amending the handwritten prescriptions, to show that the more expensive form of medication had been dispensed when this was not the case.”

When first interviewed about this in January 2018, Mr Lloyd answered “no comment” to all questions.

However by April 2019, when re-interviewed, he supplied a prepared statement in which he admitted to the fraud in full, expressed remorse and said he intended to repay the amount in full.

Within a month he had done so, using money from his company which will need to be paid back to his brothers, who were not implicated in the fraud.

He was convicted at Merthyr Tydfil Magistrates Court on 7 October 2019 and sentenced to 16 months’ imprisonment, a sentence he is still serving.

At the time, His Honour Judge Bidder told the pharmacist that, “You carried out, over a long period of time, a very significant fraud by claiming you had dispensed more expensive items than you had”.

“You endorsed NHS prescription forms to that effect, you actually altered, on occasions, endorsements that had been made by other pharmacists,” he said.

“Over 1,500 prescriptions were involved. You had, it is quite clear to me, identified a loophole in the system. The electronic forms that were used could not be so altered but, with the handwritten forms, fraud was possible.

“This was a careful and calculated fraud over a substantial number of years.”

He also said that, “The public shame is very substantial and this is a case where it is, I think, inevitable you will never work as a pharmacist which you spent, no doubt, years qualifying for, you will never work as a pharmacist again”.

“Your fall from grace is complete,” the Judge said.

At the fitness to practise hearing, the GPhC submitted that Mr Lloyd’s actions had brought the profession of pharmacy into disrepute, and were not befitting of a member of the profession.

Mr Lloyd was neither present nor represented, but in August he had said that he would accept the Committee’s decision, and that he expected to be struck off the register.

The Committee said that the offence was “serious and reprehensible” and that Mr Lloyd had brought the profession into disrepute.

It directed that his name be removed from the register, and imposed an interim measure to prevent him practising in the 28-day period before the order takes effect, or in the case he chooses to appeal.

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