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'Distractions' in pharmacy contributing to dispensing errors

Distractions resulting from pharmacists taking on “more and more” work is one of the factors behind dispensing errors reported to the National Pharmacy Association (NPA).

In her latest medication safety officer report, published last month, NPA chief pharmacist Leyla Hannbeck found that “distractions” in the pharmacy are frequently associated with incidents of dispensing errors.

Commenting on the findings, Ms Hannbeck told C+D yesterday (June 5) that “everyone working in a pharmacy is faced with these distractions: the pharmacist is busy checking prescriptions, the phone rings, a staff member is asking questions about what to order, while a patient comes in seeking medical advice”.

A lack of concentration led to one of the incidents highlighted in the report – a child being dispensed methadone instead of a reconstituted antibiotic – which could "have serious consequences", she warned.

Funding cuts increase workload

The NPA advises pharmacists to “do one thing at a time where possible” and “have trained staff who know exactly what they are doing, and are less reliant on a pharmacist’s attention”.

When asked by C+D whether the situation is likely to get worse, as pharmacies in England look to cut staff to try and offset the funding cuts, Ms Hannbeck said: “We’re not trying to say: don’t rely on community pharmacy because they haven’t got enough staff.”

However, “pharmacies need enough funding to make sure they have trained staff to ensure patient safety”.

Fear of prosecution increases errors

Pharmacy staff are “more and more aware of the importance of patient safety and reporting”, Ms Hannbeck said, which she claimed is why the number of error reports the NPA received increased by 45% since the previous report in January.

However, despite the increase in reporting, Ms Hannbeck said the possibility of being prosecuted for an inadvertent dispensing error “still overshadows the profession”.

“This is not helping the profession; pharmacists being nervous affects their mentality. This is not going to help decrease the number of errors,” she said.

Where pharmacists need a “confidence boost”

One area Ms Hannbeck is "keen to look further into" is controlled drugs, as "again this is something that keeps coming up in the [error] reports".

“I don’t think pharmacists are completely confident on the legislation around controlled drugs – we need to boost confidence there,” she added.

How often do you make an inadvertent dispensing error?

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