Dispensing errors returned to the headlines last month, when Northern Irish pharmacist Martin White received a suspended prison sentence for dispensing propranolol instead of prednisolone in the hours leading up to a patient's death in 2014.
C+D asked the DH last week if Mr White’s sentencing would be discussed at the next meeting of the board charged with creating a legal defence from inadvertent dispensing errors for pharmacy professionals (see below).
But the DH did not address this issue, or C+D’s request for a rough timescale of when this legal defence will come into force.
Instead, it responded: “We have consulted on our proposals to put in place a defence to the criminal sanction for inadvertent dispensing errors.”
“The consultation received good support from patients, carers, healthcare professionals and from representative organisations and bodies, and we will announce proposed changes to the law in due course.”
MP campaigns to change the law
All-party pharmacy group vice chair Oliver Colvile raised the issue of dispensing errors at a parliamentary debate last week (January 11).
“At the moment, GPs can get a slap on the wrist or be struck off, whereas pharmacists who fail to give prescriptions properly can face criminal charges,” Mr Colvile told MPs.
“I was led to understand by the minister that the matter might have been sorted out before Christmas. Here we are, at the beginning of the year, and we still have not dealt with it,” he added.
“I must warn [David Mowat] that I have tabled a parliamentary question about it.”
Watch Mr Colville discuss his campaign to get dispensing errors decriminalised, and what he made of Jeremy Hunt’s comments on pharmacy “clusters”, below.