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Dispensing errors due to be decriminalised next year

Exclusive The programme board set up to review medicines law plans to have legislation put in place to decriminalise dispensing errors by the end of 2014, the board's chair Ken Jarrold (pictured) revealed in an exclusive interview with C+D.

Dispensing errors could be decriminalised by the end of 2014 if legislation put forward by the programme board set up to review medicines law goes ahead, according to the board's chair Ken Jarrold.

Both the House of Commons and the House of Lords need to pass secondary legislation allowing for decriminalisation, but Mr Jarrold said that there was clear political support for decriminalisation and the board would focus on the issue in greater detail at its next meeting in June.

The programme board was set up in January to find a way to "rebalance" medicines legislation and pharmacy regulation within three years, but it agreed to make dispensing errors a fast-track issue at its first meeting earlier this month.

Programme board chair Ken Jarrold said there was clear political support for decriminalisation

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Mr Jarrold stressed that there was still a "huge amount of detailed work" to be done before a draft order under section 60 of the Health Act was made available for consultation in the autumn.

England's chief pharmaceutical officer Keith Ridge, who also sits on the board, said that decriminalising dispensing errors was not as straightforward as some pharmacists might think. He added that it required a complex balance between medicines legislation and professional regulation to ensure patient safety.

But Dr Ridge told C+D that it was great to see that the issue had been prioritised.

There are five programme board meetings scheduled up to January 2014, with the next to be held on June 3.

Under section 64 of the Medicines Act, it is a criminal offence for a pharmacist or technician to dispense the wrong product to a patient, even in error. Section 60 of the Health Act 1999 allows for the regulation of a health professional to be modified.

How would decriminalisation of dispensing errors affect the way you practise?

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Laurence Wells, Community pharmacist

I will be cautiously optimistic. At the moment, my impression is that the government recognises our sector's concern. The only question what they will eventually settle on. Will it actually strike the correct balance, or will it be watered down?

Peter McAuley, Community pharmacist

Don't hold your breath, you might have to take another one!!!!

Harnek Chera, Community pharmacist

Not before time!

Gerry Diamond, Primary care pharmacist

Live in hope...............die in

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