It is “unlikely” dispensing errors will be decriminalised before the autumn, the programme board set up to “rebalance” pharmacy regulation has revealed.
The Welsh and Scottish national elections, combined with MPs’ summer break, mean parliamentary bodies will need more time to review the legal defence from prosecution for pharmacy workers who make an inadvertent dispensing error, the programme board said on Monday (January 25).
The Department of Health (DH) told C+D in December that it expects to agree the draft change to the law this spring, and programme board chair Ken Jarrold said on Monday that he is “disappointed that further work is needed on the proposals”.
But Mr Jarrold added that he is “encouraged by the very strong commitment of ministers and board members to our work”. “Continued determination and resilience is needed to get the required clearances,” Mr Jarrold said.
The programme board said it is still “awaiting clearance” of the draft change to the law before it can be approved by the UK and devolved governments.
How will the government change the law?
A pharmacy professional or unregistered member of staff should have a defence against a criminal sanction for an inadvertent dispensing error if they meet "strict conditions". These include showing they had acted “in the course of [their] profession”, had made a supply on the back of a prescription or patient group directive, and “promptly” informed the patient about the error once discovered.
Criminal sanctions should only apply if there is proof "beyond reasonable doubt" that the pharmacist either misused their professional skills "for an improper purpose" or shown "a deliberate disregard for patient safety". Failing to follow the pharmacy's procedures would not constitute grounds for criminal proceedings on its own.
Source: DH consultation, February 2015
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