What Is Personal Control?


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Lawyer David Reissner argues that the confusion over `personal control', in relation to a pharmacist supervising a pharmacy and the sale of medicines, either needs defining or abolishing  All pharmacists know that Pharmacy medicines and Prescription Only Medicines can only be supplied by or under the supervision of a pharmacist. Many are unaware that the Medicines Act 1968 also says that, in order to meet the definition of lawfully conducting a retail pharmacy business, the registered premises must be under the personal control of a pharmacist in relation to the supply of all medicines, including General Sale List medicines.  What is personal control? This question has only been considered by the courts on one occasion, in the case of Hygienic Stores v Coombes, in 1937. Hygienic Stores had 16 shops. They employed a pharmacist at three of these. At the other 13, the only medicines they supplied were the equivalent of today's GSLs. They were convicted of an offence under the Pharmacy and Poisons Act 1933 and convicted. The High Court dismissed an appeal, holding that there was sufficient evidence from which to conclude that there had been a lack of personal control.  The court did not go so far as to define personal control. Over the years, however, the assumption has been made that, barring brief absences to run errands or for comfort breaks, personal control requires the presence of a pharmacist on the premises.  The meaning of personal control has been considered by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society's Statutory Committee on a number of occasions. Like the High Court in 1937, the Statutory Committee has traditionally avoided trying to define personal control, confining itself to deciding whether a case fell on one side of the line or another. The gist of its decisions is that a pharmacy would remain under the personal control of a pharmacist if the pharmacist went to the lavatory or went to the bank. On the other hand, keeping a pharmacy open until 7.00pm every day when the pharmacist had left at 6.00pm has been held to be misconduct because personal control was absent.  Under today's legislation, the Medicines Act 1968 does not make it a criminal offence if a pharmacy is not under the personal control of a pharmacist. Instead, personal control is simply part of the definition of "lawfully conducting a retail pharmacy business". This definition is central to the legal structure of pharmacy practice, so that the absence of personal control could mean that other criminal offences are committed.  For example, a pharmacist may legally be in possession of Controlled Drugs if he or she is lawfully conducting a retail pharmacy business. Lack of personal control would mean that the owner of the pharmacy was not lawfully conducting a retail pharmacy business and thus not lawfully in possession of any Controlled Drugs on the premises.  When Gary Flather QC was chairman of the Statutory Committee, the Committee regarded a lack of personal control as misconduct because, when members of the public entered a pharmacy, they were entitled to expect that they would be able to obtain advice from a professionally qualified person.  However, giving a decision of the Committee in August 2004, the current chairman, Lord Fraser of Carmyllie QC, held that there was no separate duty to have a pharmacist in personal control of a pharmacy if no medicines were dispensed. Lord Fraser said that pharmacy premises could remain open... you can go to link

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