Northern Irish pharmacist Mr White was handed a four-month prison sentence, suspended for two years, last week (December 16) for giving a 67-year-old woman the wrong medication in the hours before her death in 2014.
Pam Adams, an NHS pharmacist from Gloucestershire, set up her petition the week before the sentencing, and claimed Mr White's case showed "another pharmacist has been made into a criminal by making a tragic mistake".
Ms Adams said she drew from her experience of “27 years in the NHS” for her petition, addressed to NHS England's chief pharmaceutical officer Keith Ridge, in which she calls for pharmacists to "stop being criminalised for being human".
Ms Adams added: “Pharmacists, doctors and nurses all face long hours, understaffing, relentless demand and pressure to work through breaks. Criminal prosecution and sentencing is not the way to help the NHS learn from errors and improve healthcare.”
The government's ongoing initiative to remove the threat of criminal prosecution for pharmacists and staff who make an inadvertent dispensing error has suffered years of delays. On Monday, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society told C+D it is still 100% committed to decriminalising dispensing errors.
At time going to press, the petition had accrued more than 1,030 signatures, and hundreds of comments. Here are some examples:
Kirstie Myles from Yate: “I am a pharmacist and the pressure we are under is huge. This is an unfair result for Martin, who was only trying to do his best.”
Charlene Stewart from Glengormley: “I am a working pharmacist, and the pressures – especially in community pharmacy – due to understaffing and cutbacks, are simply not acceptable. Mistakes will happen.”
Paul Adams from Charlton Kings: “I am a pharmacist working in the NHS. We are told that to learn from our mistakes we have a no-blame culture. This is not compatible with the threat of prosecution for human error.”
Tracey Kime-Warren from Perthshire: “Errors should not be criminalised. Companies that expect their pharmacists to work without breaks and adequate support staff should be.”
Ishbel Thomson: “For a professional, making a mistake is devastating. Criminalising such a mistake is statutory vindictiveness.”
You can view the petition here.