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Decriminalisation of dispensing errors could take up to three years

By News team

Decriminalisation of dispensing errors, although a priority, could take up to three years to implement, it emerged earlier this week during a meeting of the All-Party Pharmacy Group (28 January 2013).

Keith Ridge, chief pharmaceutical officer for England, stressed that the issue of dispensing errors would be a priority for the newly formed pharmacy programme board, which has been set up to investigate the "rebalancing of medicines legislation and professional regulation" (see Panel). The board’s timeframe for this work is two to three years, said Mr Ridge. However he could not say specifically when proposals for decriminalisation of dispensing errors would be complete.

The lack of urgency was criticised by MPs, including the APPG chairman Kevin Barron, who said in a statement after the meeting: "The speakers . . . were absolutely clear: pharmacists should not face the prospect of prison and a criminal record for making a genuine dispensing error. While the All-Party Group welcomes this, we should be clear that we’ve heard this all before. Those with responsibility for ushering in change must now move forward with a real sense of urgency – it does not need to take three years to remove the spectre of criminality that currently hangs over pharmacists in their daily work. A move to a system in which professional regulation takes the lead in dealing with genuine dispensing errors would have clear benefits in terms of learning and training – and it would improve patient safety."

Julia Cumberlege, joint vice chairman of the APPG, was also critical of the timescale: "[The issue of dispensing errors] has been running a long time, due diligence is appreciated but three years is too long."

Oliver Colville, MP for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport and joint vice chairman of the APPG, agreed, and vowed to put a question on timescale to Parliament.

Chairman of board announced

A pharmacy programme board, to be chaired by Ken Jarrold, former chairman of the Pharmacy Regulation and Leadership Oversight Group, which oversaw the establishment of the General Pharmaceutical Council, has been set up as part of the Government’s review of medicines and pharmacy legislation. The Department of Health and Medicines and Healthcare products regulatory Agency publicised their intention to conduct a review in October 2012.

Mr Jarrold is currently chairman of the North Staffordshire Combined Healthcare NHS Trust.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2013.11115962

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