For pharmacists, it can be a stressful experience to receive an email or letter from the College of Pharmacists advising that you or your pharmacy is the subject of an investigation or a complaint.
We have prepared this list of tips to guide you through the important steps to take should you find yourself in this situation.
1. Remain calm and pause before you react.
The first reaction to being notified of a complaint or investigation against you is most often shock, worry, or even anger. One common reaction is to immediately jump into action. We caution you to pause before you take any action and especially before you respond to the College.
The communication from the College will indicate a timeframe for you to provide a response and it may be possible to request an extension if more time is needed. First, allow yourself time to consider the complaint and reflect on what happened to prompt the complaint.
2. Consult a lawyer well in advance of any deadlines.
A lawyer can help you navigate the complaints process and prepare the best possible response. It can be tempting to put off dealing with a complaint or investigation at all, including consulting a lawyer. This is a natural reaction to a stressful event. However, you have a limited time to prepare a response and your lawyer will need time to carry out their own investigation prior to assisting you in drafting a response. It is necessary to retain a lawyer as early as possible so that there is adequate time.
3. Gather the relevant documents and obtain statements from people involved.
Your response to the College will likely need to be supported by relevant documents such as prescriptions, PharmaCare billing records, and statements from persons involved. This is another stumbling block that pharmacists can run into. It can take time to gather these documents, review them, and incorporate them into your response. It can take time to assemble the documents and obtain statements such as letters of reference. It is important to determine what documents are needed and to put a plan in place to obtain them as early as possible. A lawyer can assist you in determining what evidence is needed to support your response.
4. Prepare a thorough response.
Once the relevant documents have been obtained, your lawyer can assist you with preparing a response to the complaint or investigation. It is important that your first response be comprehensive and well thought out. Your response will determine whether the Inquiry Committee of the College recommends penalties against you and if so, what penalties will be recommended. The potential penalties include undertakings, continuing education, fines, suspensions, and practice conditions. If your first response is incomplete or contains inaccurate information, you may not be able to provide additional information or correct your response later.
Your response should:
- a) Address all of the issues including any legal issues;
- b) If mistakes occurred, explain why they occurred; and
- c) Be factual and persuasive rather than emotional or confrontational.
5. Be proactive in remedying any practice issues raised by the complaint
You may be able to achieve a better outcome in the complaint process or investigation if you take proactive measures to remedy any practice issues. Steps that you can take to improve your practice may include:
- a) Reflecting on the causes of the incident that gave rise to the complaint or investigation;
- b) Identifying additional training, changes in pharmacy policies, or improvements in your procedures that would prevent similar incidents in the future;
- c) Implementing the changes proactively; and
- d) Advising the College in your response about what you have done to improve your practice and prevent similar incidents.
Most investigations are resolved without the need for a formal hearing. Facing an investigation by the College of Pharmacists can be stressful, but there are proactive steps that can be taken to respond to the investigation effectively. Please contact us if you require assistance with a College of Pharmacists investigation or any other pharmacy-related matter.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.