The UK-wide defence from criminal prosecution for pharmacy professionals who make an inadvertent dispensing error became law today (April 16), after being signed by the Queen in February.
According to the board set up by the Department of Health and Social Care (DH) to “rebalance” medicines legislation and pharmacy regulation – which was assigned the decriminalisation of dispensing errors as its first priority in 2013 – the change to the law “will encourage the reporting of errors without fear of prosecution”.
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt also emphasised in February that the defence “will ensure the NHS learns from mistakes and builds a culture of openness and transparency”, while pharmacy minister Steve Brine threw himself behind the cause.
Half of C+D readers will not report more errors
But a poll of 121 C+D readers across March and April revealed that just 25% agree the new defence will make them “more likely to report inadvertent dispensing errors” in their pharmacy.
In contrast, almost half (47%) said the defence would not make them more likely to report errors, while 28% remain unsure.
Read C+D’s analysis – also published today – to find out why not everyone is convinced by the new defence.
Responding to the law coming into force, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society stressed that the defence “aims to increase patient safety by reducing the fear of criminal prosecution among pharmacists for honest errors and encourage a more open culture of error reporting and learning from mistakes”.
In its own response to the new defence, General Pharmaceutical Council chief executive Duncan Rudkin said: “We know there are already a number of local and national initiatives across England, Scotland and Wales to encourage reporting and learning from errors, which are making a difference.
“We would encourage everyone working within pharmacy to play their part to contribute to a culture of greater openness and learning, to improve the care people receive.”
“We recognise that the possibility of action by the regulator can also deter people from reporting errors,” he added. “It is important to emphasise that single dispensing errors would not in our view constitute a fitness-to-practise concern, unless there were aggravating factors.”