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Defence legislation for inadvertent dispensing errors to be laid ‘shortly’, says health minister

The UK government says it will “shortly” bring forward the necessary legislative changes that will put in place a defence for pharmacists against criminal prosecution for making an inadvertent dispensing error.

Health minister David Mowat confirmed that the processes around introducing the regulatory order needed to trigger reform of the Medicines Act 1968 have nearly been completed.

In a reply to a written parliamentary question on 12 January 2017, the minister wrote: “We remain fully committed to making this change. We have consulted on our proposals to put in place a defence to the criminal sanction for inadvertent dispensing errors and received good support from patients, carers, healthcare professionals, pharmacy organisations and other bodies.

“We are working through the necessary processes to change the law. We are in the final stages of clearance and hope to lay the order shortly,” he added.

His comments follow a question put by Oliver Colvile, chair of the All Party Pharmacy Group, about progress on the necessary statutory changes that will bring an end to the criminalisation of genuine dispensing errors, which the government is introducing as part of its review of current medicines legislation.

Commenting on the minister’s answer, Colvile responded on 17 January 2017: “It is a ridiculous anomaly that pharmacists can go to prison for an honest mistake and I am delighted that the minister has listened to our concerns and we finally have progress on reforming the law.

“Making new legislation can be a long and frustrating process, but today we took one more step closer to levelling the playing field and righting this long-standing injustice.”

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2017.20202209

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  • David Mowat, health minister

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