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RPS president: I've recently committed 2 dispensing 'crimes'

Martin Astbury: It is insane that inadvertent dispensing errors have not yet been decriminalised

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) president has admitted to committing two “criminal acts” in the last two months “because dispensing errors do happen”.

Speaking of his frustration over delays to the decriminalisation of dispensing errors, Martin Astbury said “human error” is inevitable.

Despite this, dispensing errors are not something that pharmacists take lightly, Mr Astbury told C+D earlier this month (February 17).

“One of the errors will be etched on my brain forever,” he said. “[The] patient brought it to my attention immediately, [so there was] no harm done.”

"Absolutely ridiculous" delays

Mr Astbury pledged to be “extremely hands on” with dispensing error legislation, when he was reappointed president in July last year.

While he has been representing the RPS on the government's programme board to "rebalance" medicines legislation, he said it is “absolutely ridiculous” that the decision to decriminalise inadvertent errors is still caught up in “parliamentary process”.

“Everything is done. There is no conspiracy of anyone deliberately delaying, but it is immensely frustrating.”

Mr Astbury said the recent case of Northern Irish pharmacist Martin White shows why legislative change “needs to be given priority above other things”.

“I’m not looking to decriminalise all activity,” he said. “If a pharmacist deliberately did something maliciously, or was totally grossly negligent then quite right, [they] should get the book thrown at [them].

“[But] the fact that a dispensing error is a criminal act is just insane.”

Change by the summer?

Despite the delays, Mr Astbury remains optimistic that “something will get laid in the next couple of months", which means between late spring and early summer "in parliamentary speak".

The length of time it has taken for the rebalancing board to consult on decriminalisation and to assess the impact of a legislation change is “interesting compared to the speed” at which the government conducted its review of the sector and implemented its funding reforms, Mr Astbury pointed out.

Are you hopeful that dispensing errors will be decriminalised by the summer?

Ilove Pharmacy, Non Pharmacist Branch Manager

Then you should hand yourself into the nearest police station. 

A Long Serving Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

I am human. Human beings are fallable. I am a professional human being. Being professional means I am less likely to make an error but I AM HUMAN. Should I be prosecuted for being human?

Jonny Johal, Pharmacy Area manager/ Operations Manager

I don't think dispensing errors should be decriminalised. I entered the profession in 1979 fully aware of the criminal implications, and so do every pharmacist here. 

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

And as an AM, precisely how much dispensing do you do? It would be a different matter if you were making 400+ potential criminal offences every day. I'm very glad that I don't work under you.

Uma Patel, Community pharmacist

Two that he knows of

Research shows error rate of abour 3% ie about 30 million nationally every year

There we all go by the grace of God

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

Wow! Really? 3%??? I'm better than I thought. I should be doing 360 a month if thats the case.

Ms B Wilson, Pharmaceutical Adviser

Well I have just stepped back into pharmacy albeit a fixed term contract but the experience will be interesting as within a Hospital out-patient environment so we will see, only been my first day.  But I know some aspects will be challenging (but that could be because it is new) as hospital protocol pharmacy and healthcare wise is slightly different to standard community and retail certainly and I am only a humble HCA!!

Perhaps supported CPD may be better than criminalising Pharmacists/dispensers unless they continually make silly mistakes...

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

If dispensing errors are decriminalised this summer I'll dispense in my underpants like Gary Lineker did when Leicester won the title. I think Leicester were shorter odds as well...

Hadi Al-Bayati, Locum pharmacist

Last paragraph spot on

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