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.