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30 April 2014

Charles Russell's pharmacy conferences 2014 update

This article was written prior to the formation of Charles Russell Speechlys, through the merger between Charles Russell and Speechly Bircham.

Over 270 people signed up for Charles Russell's annual pharmacy law conferences in London and Manchester, including regulators from the General Pharmaceutical Council and NHS England.

It was the first time the law firm's pharmacy law team had run the conferences with a live Twitter feed which proved popular, to collect comments and questions during the sessions.

Noel Wardle told attendees that a survey of fitness to practise cases showed that a higher proportion of pharmacists who were not represented were struck off than pharmacists who had legal representation.

He said the message when in trouble with the GPhC was "Keep Calm and call your Lawyer". In a discussion of e-cigarettes, many of the pharmacy owners in the audience are already selling them, but some refuse to do so for ethical reasons. Noel commented that current advertising of e-cigarettes is likely to be banned when an EC Directive comes into force in 2016.

Susan Hunneyball anticipated that by this time next year dispensing errors may no longer be criminal, but following the Francis Report, a new offence will be introduced, governing the conduct of all healthcare professionals.

In an interactive session, Tim Jenkins, Rachel Warren and Claire Timmings gave guests some true horror stories of transactions that the team had had to fix.

They warned against paying too high a deposit on exchange of contracts, and warned purchasers against becoming directors of the selling company before completion, because a new director might become responsible for liabilities that due diligence has not yet uncovered.

In one case, the purchaser learned after exchange that NHS England was taking steps to cancel the pharmacy's NHS contract because of the seller's misdeeds.

Employment law expert Ben Smith said that it was hard to satisfy an Employment Tribunal that a dismissal based on performance issues was fair.

Charles Russell's Senior Healthcare Partner, David Reissner said that NHS England had an agenda to turn down every application for a new contract and did not always give reasons, even though legally required to do so.

He said the Department of Health's recent changes to market entry regulations might be intended to ensure the market entry regime did not breach European law, but it seemed inconsistent with the recent pronouncement of the Chief Pharmaceutical Officer that there are too many pharmacies.