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Case study 8
An operating department practitioner (‘the registrant’) was suspended from the Register by a panel of the Conduct and Competence Committee for twelve months after being cautioned by the police for two offences of theft by an employee.
The panel noted the offences related to thefts by the registrant of Remifentanil (a morphine based controlled drug) from hospitals where he was working. The panel noted from the evidence provided by the police that the registrant had been seen alone in an operating theatre with a syringe in his hand. The syringe was taken off him and a search of the theatre found a blood stained tissue and three empty ampoules of Remifentanil. Irregularities were also found with the latest entries in the theatre’s controlled drug record book.
At police interview, the registrant admitted, while at work, he had taken two ampoules of the drug; mixed them with water; and self-administered by injection. He said the solution gave him a five minute “high”. The registrant also admitted to previously stealing two ampoules of Remifentanil from another hospital in the preceding weeks.
The panel regarded the registrant’s actions as a serious matter. His self-administration of a controlled drug while at work inevitably had an adverse impact on his ability to function effectively as an operating department practitioner and so was bound to present a risk to service users.
The offences were also ones of dishonesty, made more serious as involving, albeit indirectly, theft from the public purse. The registrant had not engaged with the fitness to practise process and neither shown insight nor expressed regret for his behaviour. The panel was satisfied he had breached fundamental principles of the requirement that registrants should act in the interests of service users and should always act with integrity. Accordingly the panel found the registrant’s fitness to practise to be impaired by reason of his caution.
The panel concluded a Suspension Order to be the appropriate sanction. The panel stopped short of striking off the registrant because a relatively short period had elapsed since his drug misuse had come to light and he had so far been afforded little opportunity to address the issues which may have contributed to that misuse.