By Neil Trainis
Mark Pitt, the director of defence services at the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA), has accused the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) of failing to follow its own rules over the way it dealt with a complaint made by one of its members.
Criticising the professional leadership body’s handling of the complaint made this year by former Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain president Steve Churton against Hala Jawad, Pitt (pictured) said the case raised “numerous questions” about the RPS’ ability to handle complaints “in a fair and unbiased manner.”
Churton had claimed Jawad breached the RPS’ complaints procedure by passing information to Independent Community Pharmacist (ICP) about earlier allegations she made to the RPS over online bullying.
Jawad’s claims were investigated by the RPS who did not notify her about “the nature of the decision.” It is believed Churton was exonerated in that case.
In his complaint against Jawad, who is being supported by the PDA over the matter, Churton said her conduct caused him personal distress and brought his character and integrity into question.
Jawad, who denied Churton’s claims, was initially found by the RPS to have breached the code of conduct for members after “some” of her actions “fell below the standards expected of a pharmacy professional.”
The RPS said she was entitled to remain a member but was required to undergo media training.
It also referred the matter to the GPhC who said they were unable to investigate the allegations as they did not breach its standards. Jawad overturned the RPS’ decision after winning an appeal.
Pitt, however, was highly critical of the way the RPS handled the case, claiming:
“The RPS has failed to follow its own rules that govern complaint handling, which is a fundamental flaw in the process and real cause for concern,” Pitt told ICP.
“It is a fundamental principle governing any fair process that an individual knows the identity of who will be judging their actions.
“The way that this case has been handled raises numerous questions about the conduct (panel’s) ability to handle such complaints in a fair and unbiased manner.”
He added: “Regrettably no records were made of the conduct panel deliberations which would have helped to demonstrate that a fair and unbiased decision-making process was followed.”
The RPS refused to comment on Pitt’s remarks.
On July 10, Anne Boyter, chair of the RPS’ membership committee, told Jawad that “no such notes” existed of the minutes of the meeting in which the complaint against her was heard.
When asked for a copy of the report sent to the panel by the membership team, including any recommendations made about Jawad’s membership, Boyter replied: “No such report exists.”
How did former RPSGB president know Jawad had rejoined RPS membership?
Questions not only surround the RPS’ handling of the case but how Churton (pictured) knew so quickly that Jawad had rejoined the RPS as a member.
He originally submitted a complaint to the RPS on November 27, 2018 but the next day was told by its governance manager Alison Douglas that it was unable to pursue the matter because Jawad was not a member.
She had relinquished her RPS membership in July 2018 but applied to rejoin the RPS eight months later and, after undergoing a suitability assessment, was accepted back into membership on Friday, March 1, 2019.
Churton lodged his complaint against her the next working day, Monday, March 4, 2019.
When asked how he had known so quickly that she had re-registered, Churton said: “Should any complaint have been made to the RPS it would have been made and considered in confidence, with an obligation placed upon all parties involved to respect this.
"My understanding is that details of the RPS membership list are available to members through the Society’s website.”
The RPS told ICP in April that its membership list was confidential.
When the RPS was also asked at that point if someone within its organisation had leaked information to Churton that Jawad had rejoined, it said it could not “comment on any complaints made to the organisation and subsequently to the membership committee and the GPhC as per our process.”