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Government to consult public on decriminalisation

Practice The programme board wants to ensure it engages a wide range of individuals and organisations across the pharmacy sector in the consultation, as well as patients and the public

The government will hold a public consultation in January on decriminalising dispensing errors, programme board chair Ken Jarrold has said.

The board, set up to "rebalance" medicines legislation, was developing a "comprehensive programme" to engage pharmacists and patients with the consultation, Mr Jarrold told C+D last week (November 21).

The consultation would focus on creating an exemption for pharmacists and technicians from criminal sanctions for dispensing errors, as well as legally defining the role of superintendents and responsible pharmacists (RPs), Mr Jarrold said following a board meeting last week (November 19).

The board wanted to ensure it engaged a wide range of individuals and organisations across the pharmacy sector in the consultation, as well as patients, the public "and beyond", he added.

Chair Ken Jarrold said the programme board was developing a "comprehensive programme" to engage pharmacists and patients with the consultation

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In September, the board agreed that a prosecutor would have to prove a pharmacist had not been "acting in the course of their profession" if they had made a dispensing error, following concerns raised by the NPA that it would be up to pharmacists to prove they had been acting professionally.

The board also agreed it would remain an offence to deliberately supply the wrong medicines to a patient, according to notes from its September meeting.

The board raised concerns that the complexities of the discussions about superintendents and RPs could hold up plans to decriminalise dispensing errors. The DH promised to look at what it was "practical to achieve within the existing timeframe".

The programme board was set up in January to "rebalance" medicines legislation and pharmacy regulation. 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.

In May, Mr Jarrold told C+D that the board had made dispensing errors a fast-track issue and hoped to pass secondary legislation to decriminalise them under section 60 of the Health Act 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.

A partners' forum, created to support the work of the programme board, will be holding its second meeting on December 2, following a forum in October where it said better communication with patients would be key to successfully decriminalising dispensing errors.

Are you happy with the steps being taken to achieve decriminalisation of dispensing errors?

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Amal England, Public Relations

For God's sake, what is so ' complicated about this'? When there doctors on the medical register who have been convicted of pedophilia, GBH, cruelty to children, murder of patients, etc, why is it so difficult to decriminalize dispensing errors? Why does the public need to be consulted? Was the same public consulted to criminalise the Mid-Staffs massacre and thus prosecute and strike off those doctors/nurses responsible? A simple motion complicated by egos and hypocrites.

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