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GPhC: Decriminalisation failure was biggest disappointment of 2014

Legal changes necessary to decriminalise dispensing errors and enable the GPhC’s new inspection model have taken longer than predicted, the regulator says


The government’s failure to decriminalise inadvertent dispensing errors was the biggest disappointment of last year, the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) has said.


The same legal delays that prevented decriminalisation had also meant the GPhC was unable to launch the “full operational mode” of its premises inspections, the regulator’s chief executive Duncan Rudkin told C+D.


It was important for the sector to “remain positive and upbeat” about both issues as the government board set up to “rebalance” medicines law remained “very committed” to making the necessary changes to medicines law, Mr Rudkin said in an exclusive interview last month (December 10).


“We are extremely keen to see progress with the rebalancing legislation because one of the key strands for us [is] to be able to move out of the prototype model of inspecting pharmacies into a fully functioning mode of publishing [inspection] reports and a full range of enforcement mechanisms,” he said.


Before this could happen, the government needed to consult the public about its proposed changes, which would be passed as secondary legislation under section 60 of the Health Act, Mr Rudkin said. The consultation was originally scheduled for January 2014, but last month House of Commons leader William Hague MP said it would happen in “due course”.


Parliamentary lawyers have already approved draft legislation on both decriminalisation and the GPhC’s premises standards. But a “variety of complex reasons” had meant that the necessary changes were “not as far ahead as we [predicted] this time last year”, Mr Rudkin added.


Mr Rudkin is the latest senior figure to highlight the slow progress made to amend the law, after all-party pharmacy group vice-chair Oliver Colvile MP said last month that the government “seemed to be taking an age” to make the changes.


The previous week, the programme board responsible for rebalancing medicines law said it was open about the fact that the decriminalisation of dispensing errors was taking “much longer than anticipated”. The board was still having “broad and in-depth discussions” about the potential “legal framework” in its most recent meeting on November 25, it said.


Under section 64 of the Medicines Act, it is a criminal offence for a pharmacist or technician to dispense the wrong product, even in error.


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