Parliamentary lawyers has agreed draft changes to the law to decriminalise dispensing errors, C+D has learned.
The lawyers have given final approval to legislation on dispensing errors drafted by the programme board set up to "rebalance" medicines law, which meant the changes could be put out for public consultation.
But the board noted the timetable was "very tight" to change the law before the general election in May 2015 - although this was "still achievable", it said in notes from its meeting in May this year.
As well as decriminalising dispensing errors, the board will also be consulting on legally defining the role of superintendents and giving pharmacy regulators power to decide whether a responsible pharmacist needs to be on the premises at all times.
The board planned to make the changes by passing secondary legislation under section 60 of the Health Act. The changes would be divided into three separate section 60 orders, so that should one application be delayed it would not affect the others.
A consultation on the proposed changes had originally been scheduled for January, but the Department of Health told C+D yesterday (July 24) a date had still not been agreed.
Last year, programme board chair Ken Jarrold told C+D the board had made dispensing errors a fast-track issue and hoped to pass legislation to decriminalise them by the end of 2014. But there was still "a huge amount of detailed work" to do before a consultation on the draft changes to the law was made available, he said at the time.
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.