In documents published last week (March 6), the government programme board set up to “rebalance” medicines legislation revealed that the defence for pharmacists and their staff who commit an inadvertent error was “signed by the Queen on February 8”.
“The four UK [government] health departments are developing a ‘commencement order’, with the aim to bring the new defences into effect in April,” the board confirmed.
The national governments are also continuing to look into extending the proposals “to cover pharmacy professionals working in hospitals and other pharmacy services”, it added.
Board chair Ken Jarrold said he was “pleased to report that great strides have been made in implementing the [dispensing error defence] proposals”.
“This important development aligns pharmacy professionals with other health professions, and will support increased reporting and learning from errors,” he added.
The legal defence from criminal sanctions for pharmacists and staff was one of health and social care secretary Jeremy Hunt’s “ground-breaking” new measures to reduce harm caused by medication errors, announced at a patient safety summit last month.
This “will ensure the NHS learns from mistakes and builds a culture of openness and transparency”, the Department of Health and Social Care (DH) said at the time of Mr Hunt's announcement.