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Parliamentarians from three main parties come out in support of decriminalising dispensing errors

Parliamentarians from the three main parties have backed calls to decriminalise dispensing errors.

Speaking at a meeting of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s Chiltern region held in Westminster earlier this week, secretary of the All-Party Pharmacy Group Mark Todd (Lab, South Derbyshire) said that the Medicines Act 1968 is outdated and that it does not encourage pharmacists to be transparent in error reporting.

Shadow minister for health Earl Howe called on the major pharmacy multiples to address the issue of pharmacists’ working conditions. He accused Tesco — the company former locum pharmacist Elizabeth Lee was working for when she made a dispensing error that resulted in a suspended jail term — of not accepting its share of the blame. He said: “The risk to the public comes not from dodgy pharmacists, but from potentially dangerous working practices. Tesco seems to be noticeably reticent in admitting that they may have had some contribution to the error that occurred.

“When a pharmacist is made to work regular 10-hour shifts, you cannot put the entire blame on that one individual. Supermarkets and major pharmacy multiples cannot wash their hands of the health and safety implications which their pharmacists are subject to.” A Tesco spokesman told The Pharmaceutical Journal: “All we have to communicate has already been relayed in court.”

Health spokesman for the Liberal Democrats Norman Lamb pointed out that the criminalisation of dispensing errors “acts as an incentive to do the wrong thing” and may result in pharmacists not reporting errors.

He stressed the importance of presenting the case for reform as one that has public safety and sharing of best practice at its core, since the public has a “superficial attraction” to the idea of tough sanctions.

Early Day Motion

The recent early day motion on decriminalising dispensing errors had attracted 137 signatories as The Journal went to press on 24 July.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal URI: 10968178

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